The Victorian government has finally released its Gas Substitution Roadmap – a plan to get Victoria off expensive, polluting gas.
Thanks to thousands of people showing their support, our government has taken an important step towards reducing the state’s dependence on dirty gas. But to match the scale of the energy and climate crises Victorians face right now, the plan needs to go further. With strong goals and timelines, we can support all households to use clean, cheap electricity, drastically cut climate pollution and make sure no one is left behind.
The current energy crisis has shown just how costly Victoria’s dependence on polluting gas is. Victorians use more gas than any other state in Australia. It’s the most expensive source of power in our energy network AND it’s responsible for a whopping 17% of our annual climate pollution.
Supporting homes and businesses to shift to clean, cheap electricity is the best way to protect Victorians from skyrocketing energy prices, fuelled by the volatile global fossil fuel markets. The Victorian government’s Gas Substitution Roadmap is a step in the right direction. But it doesn’t go nearly far enough to achieve this vision!
Here we’ve included important steps the Gas Substitution Roadmap makes, details on where it falls short and why all political parties need a credible plan to get Victorians off gas at this year’s state election.
Until this change, planning regulations forced tens of thousands of homes to connect to the gas network every year. These outdated laws meant households were locked into using polluting gas and consumption continued to grow – underpinning destructive new gas projects (like Viva’s proposal for a gas import terminal in Corio Bay!) and locking in future greenhouse emissions. Removing them is a simple first step to phasing out gas and was a key reform we were calling for.
The plan also removes perverse plumbing regulations that incentivised gas hot water to be installed in new buildings.
Raising the thermal efficiency standards from six to seven stars means new homes will be more comfortable, easier to heat and cool and cheaper to run.
The Victorian Energy Upgrades (VEU) program provides incentives for homes to shift to more energy efficient products – but this still includes gas appliances!
The growth in clean wind and solar means electricity is now a cleaner source of energy for cooking, heating and hot water, and has been in Victoria since 2019.
The plan will overhaul and improve the VEU to support households to make the switch to electric. This includes ending incentives for all gas appliances by the end of 2023 and introducing new incentives to replace gas water heating and space heating with efficient electric heating.
This is the most alarming gap in the roadmap. Gas is responsible for 17% of Victoria’s climate pollution but the plan gives very little clarity about when and how that will be reduced.
Gas is mostly made of methane, which is released when gas is extracted, transported and finally burnt. Methane is up to 84 times more damaging to our climate right now than carbon dioxide – far from the clean reputation the gas industry is trying to push.
Any credible plan to cut Victoria’s climate pollution cannot include more gas.
The roadmap fails to rule out using dirty hydrogen made with gas. This is something the gas industry is lobbying hard for, so they can preserve their profits and the value of their gas pipeline assets – at the expense of our health and climate.
Removing regulations that force new homes to connect to the gas network is an important start but doesn’t go far enough. To curb our dependence on gas we need to actively reduce gas demand – and a key way to do that is to stop new gas connections, otherwise decisions about new gas connections are left up to big property developers.
Without this, we will remain in a vicious cycle where growing gas consumption continues to underpin destructive new gas projects. Right now, Viva Energy is pushing forward with their plans to build a gas import terminal in Geelong. And the Andrews government has just given the green light for Beach Energy to mine for gas right next to the 12 Apostles. A plan that involves boring a hole underneath Port Campbell national park and 3.5km out into the ocean!
There is very little good news in this roadmap for low-income households and renters that are already doing it tough this winter. We all feel the impacts of rising energy prices, but they hit the most vulnerable people in our community the hardest, forcing families to make difficult choices on household spending.
Any plan to get off gas must have measures in place to make sure no-one is left behind.
This roadmap should have included a major and urgent investment in electrification across Victoria, coupled with support to develop local clean industries so we can heat our homes with locally made heaters and hot water services.
The upfront costs of switching appliances can be prohibitive for most households. But the good news is there are plenty of easy and low-cost options that can help anyone begin to reduce their consumption of fossil gas!