The Victorian Government just updated their Gas Substitution Roadmap, outlining Victoria’s new suite of policies to transition away from gas. It’s the first time the Roadmap has been updated since it was first released in 2022. Below we explain what the Roadmap is, what it contains and what’s missing.
On this page…
What is the problem with gas?
Methane gas is a major climate polluter, and a primary source of Victoria’s emissions. It’s also an expensive energy source and dangerous for your health. Scientists estimate that burning gas in homes is responsible for 12% of childhood asthma cases in Australia.
Currently, 80% of Victorian homes are connected to the gas network, more than any other Australian State or Territory.
Why do we need a Gas Substitution Roadmap?
We have historically produced more gas than we consume, but that’s about to change. In the next three to four years there will be a rapid drop-off in supply available from Bass Strait. On top of that, the pipeline that connects Vic, NSW and Qld is already at full capacity.
So Victoria is facing a choice: either find new supply or get on with the job of moving away from gas via efficient electrification. Only one option will meet our climate targets, protect the environment and save us money, and that is to electrify Victoria.
The Victorian government has announced new responses in their updated Gas Substitution Roadmap.
The beginning of the end for gas in homes and small businesses
The updated Roadmap contains a new plan to investigate the costs and benefits of restricting new space heating, hot water and cooktop appliances to electric only.
This approach will be very effective because in practice, when we need to replace a broken appliance, tradespeople tend to install like for like. The average household gas bill in Victoria went up by $500 last year alone, and reinstalling gas appliances locks in those increasingly high bills. Especially so for renters and social housing tenants who don’t get to choose.
Recent modelling by the Climateworks Centre has shown that electrification of households is not only necessary for limiting global heating to 1.5 °C, but also supports households to be provided with significantly cheaper electricity. Given that a typical gas appliance lasts 15 years, if we started replacing then now we would finish the job in the late 2030s – so we need to get cracking.
The government is closing loopholes for new homes
Earlier this year, the Victorian government announced that new homes needing a planning permit must be all-electric. The latest update to the Roadmap includes a new plan to make all new homes gas-free. This is an important step towards consistency, not least because at the same time the government have been relaxing the need for planning permits.
Improving minimum standards for rentals
The next major announcement was to expand the minimum standards for rental homes to include insulation, weather sealing, and energy-efficient heating, cooling, and hot water. Together with the phasing out of new gas appliances, all rental dwellings would eventually become fully electric. However, the government needs to ensure the minimum standards are enforced and it is not left up to renters to force landlords to comply with the new standards.
New incentives to electrify
New incentives for induction cooktops will be introduced into the Victorian Energy Upgrades (VEU) program by the second half of 2024. Once this happens, there will be incentives available for all major household appliances that have historically used gas. An added advantage of this measure is that VEU sets and regulates product and installation standards, which is good for peace of mind. However, VEU needs to be easier to access so people can take it up en-masse.
These measures – especially those that phase out gas connections and appliances – are big moves in the right direction. However, serious gaps remain.
The door is still open for new polluting gas projects
The biggest problem is that the Roadmap leaves the door wide open to new supply infrastructure. This could mean any number of things: new drilling off the coast like the Beach Energy pipeline under the Twelve Apostles. Or huge gas import terminals like the one AGL attempted at Crib Point, which was found to have unacceptable environmental impacts.
People don’t understand the issue
We also haven’t seen enough public education about the benefits of electrification or the negative impacts of gas. The energy transition that is underway is complex and difficult to understand, and the government is well aware of this. It needs to move quickly, but governments also need to ensure that communities understand the issue.
Government needs to lead by electrifying their own buildings
The Victorian government is yet to commit to electrifying their own buildings. Schools and hospitals shouldn’t be wasting their funds on expensive gas bills. The government has dropped the ball here and needs to commit to electrifying all publicly owned facilities, not only the new builds.
What happens next?
The Victorian government will be kicking off processes in 2024 to examine phasing out new gas appliances, ending gas connections in new homes and improving rental standards. We can expect to see the gas industry in full swing spouting misinformation to protect their financial interests. The government must stick to its commitments and make the best decisions for Victorians and the environment.