Don’t lock in gas when the grid is turning green!
Yes, gas-fired power generation is indeed very useful on the grid for filling in the gaps in wind and solar generation, but household use of gas is a completely different matter!
When grid electricity is 100% renewable, if all your household appliances are electric, you will be able to cook, keep your family warm, and have plenty of hot water without generating any carbon emissions.
But even now, you can reduce carbon emissions and help restore a safe climate if you switch to modern efficient electric appliances when your gas appliances need to be replaced, or choose all electric appliances when you build. This is particularly true in the areas that already have a high percentage of renewable electricity, such as SA, ACT, and Tasmania, but it is already the case in all other parts of Australia too.
Changes over the last 10 years
If you chose gas appliances for heating, hot water, and cooking 10 or more years ago, your choice was the most economical one, and possibly more environmentally friendly as well due to the low efficiency of most electric appliances at the time, but a lot has changed over the last 10 years!
Compare gas with solar and wind, not with coal!
When the gas industry claims that gas is ‘cleaner’ than electricity, they are comparing gas with coal-fired electricity. But the ACT, South Australia, the Northern Territory, and Tasmania do not have any coal-fired power stations (the last SA one closed in May 2016).
Other states still do have coal-fired electricity, but the percentage of renewable electricity on the grid is increasing, and many houses with solar PV use little grid electricity anyway. Why buy a new gas appliance when you could have zero-emissions household energy use, either now or soon, simply by choosing electric appliances instead?
See this Renew article for analysis of the relative carbon emissions of gas and electric appliances at 2019 grid levels of renewable electricity. Note that the figures assume no rooftop solar and don’t take into account the fact that figures reported by the gas sector are likely to be under-estimations of gas-related GHG emissions.
If all your household appliances are electric…
What about cost?
In a climate emergency, it makes sense to prioritise reducing emissions over reducing costs, however reducing gas dependency comes up superior on both measures. And if you get off gas, you won’t be spending several hundreds of dollars per year on the gas supply charge.
For a new build with no solar PV, your energy bills will be either lower or about the same (depending on where you live) if you choose all electric appliances. And in all cases, if you have solar PV your energy bills will be much lower if you have efficient electric appliances rather than gas appliances. June 2019 solar payback time figures from Solar Quotes show the cities and scenarios where all-electric households with solar PV typically have zero energy bills.
For existing houses, it will reduce your energy bills if you choose an efficient electric appliance when an old gas appliance needs replacing. If that leaves just one or two gas appliances, it may or may not work out cheaper to go off gas entirely. Your energy bills will go down if you do, but you’ll need to factor in the expense of buying the new appliances.
To check the effect on overall costs in your particular circumstances, see https://renew.org.au/research/all-electric-solar-homes-save-thousands-over-gas-report/ or https://renew.org.au/renew-magazine/efficient-homes/gas-versus-electricity/.
Choosing efficient electric appliances
The Facebook group My Efficient Electric Home is an excellent source of reliable information about the most efficient cooking, hot water, and home heating appliances. Note there is a search bar in the left sidebar of that Facebook group. Use it to search for information on particular appliances.
Older reverse-cycle air conditioners were not very efficient, but they have improved in leaps and bounds over recent years. For home heating, modern reverse-cycle air conditioners are the most efficient way of keeping your home warm. Many households may already have a reverse-cycle air conditioner that they use in summer without realising they can also use it in winter to keep their home warm!
For hot water, choose either a heat pump or electric-boost solar-thermal hot water. Now that efficient heat pumps are available, it is likely to be more economic to use the roof space for solar PV panels and use the self-generated electricity to drive a heat pump for hot water.
Induction cooktops with an electric oven are the most efficient choice for cooking. If you swear by cooking with gas, try out an induction cooktop at a friend’s house. They have even better heat control than gas and cook much quicker. If you have frequent blackouts in your area and want to be able to cook or make a cuppa during a blackout, you have a few options: use your bottled gas BBQ if you have one, keep a portable camp cooker that uses bottled fuel on hand, or treat yourself and go to the pub!
A note on Pacemakers and induction cooktops
From the Buildings Plan published by Beyond Zero Emissions:
Studies have shown that, unless the pacemaker is brought to within approximately 35cm of an in-use induction cooktop, there is no magnetic interference and maintenance of a distance of more than 50cm is recommended. People with pacemakers should be aware of this risk and may choose radiant heat electric cooktops instead.
– Werner I and Bernstein AD, “Do induction cooktops interfere with cardiac pacemakers?,” ‘Europace’ 15, 3, 2006: p377-384.110.
– Hirose M, et al, “Electromagnetic Interference of ImplanTable Unipolar Cardiac Pacemakers by an Induction Oven,” ‘PACE’ 28, 6, 2005: p540-548
Handout for climate/sustainability events
Download the handout at left for use at events in SA.
Contact us if you’d like a version suitable for use in other states/territories.