Why you should make the dash from gas

Making the dash from gas

You know all the gas company marketing that bangs on and on about gas being a cheap and clean form of energy? Well, turns out it is indeed just marketing. Quite distinct from reality.

Are We Still Cooking with Gas is a new report from the Alternative Energy, which shows that it’s simply not cost effective for any new home to connect to the gas network.

Not only that, it also finds that any Sydney residents using a gas heater within 5 years of its end life would actually be better off switching over early to multiple efficient electrical reverse cycle air conditioners (RCACs).

It is already far cheaper to cook and heat your house and water with efficient electrical systems than gas. As the Grattan Institute recently pointed out, replacing gas appliances with electric will save an average 3 bedroom household in Sydney $600 a year. The same house in Melbourne would save $1000 a year!

What the new ATA report makes clear is that – even with the cost of buying new appliances – in many cases consumers are better ditching gas for electric appliances, especially when able to take advantage of payback periods, which vary depending on where you live and the age of your appliances.

Efficient electrical hot water systems and reverse cycle air conditioners both use “heat pump’ technology, which is now state of the art, and getting cheaper. When you heat water or your home with gas, you burn one unit of gas to provide one unit of heat. A “heat pump” system on the other hand uses between one-fifth and one-seventh of that amount of energy to drive a refrigerant cycle, which draws in renewable ambient heat from outside and uses it create heat.

For cooking it’s the same. Induction cooking is at least as responsive as gas, far safer, and getting cheaper.  A key benefit of these appliances is that they can be run on solar or green power but even if we use electricity produced by coal, it’s still cleaner than using gas.

Compared with the ever-creeping price of gas, the long-term cost-saving benefit of making the switch is clear.

It’s bad news for the gas companies. As people realize how much money they can save by getting off the gas grid, companies will likely try to increase connection fees to compensate for the loss of gas sales, which will in turn drive more consumers from gas. This is why many experts say the gas network is in an irreversible death spiral

Round five against Rio Tinto in Warkworth 

The Warkworth coal mine and the small Hunter Valley village of Bulga are getting ready for the next round of what is now a multi-year planning battle. Back in 2012 TAI’s Richard Denniss and Rod Campbell were expert witnesses in the NSW Land and Environment Court case which overturned the mine’s approval, a decision upheld by the Supreme Court.

Following the court victories, the NSW Government changed laws to allow the mine’s owner, Rio Tinto, to resubmit essentially the same proposal that the courts have rejected. Rod has followed the case closely, made many further submissions and has been in the media arguing that the economic assessment of the mine overstates its benefits and understates its costs to the community.

In recent weeks the NSW Department of Environment and Planning released its preliminary assessment report. The Department recommends approval of the mine, endorsing Rio Tinto’s estimates of economic benefits and claiming:

The Department has tested the sensitivity of these estimates to changes in key variables, such as the price of coal, and concluded that even if these variables change significantly over time, the benefits of the project would remain positive.

This claim that the Department had carried out its own testing and assessment of Rio’s economic modelling is unusual, because to our knowledge the Department has no economists on staff and has never undertaken such assessment in the past. In fact, Planning Minister Pru Goward has acknowledged that her Department has a problem dealing with economic assessment.

We wrote to the Department, asking them directly if they had carried out any testing, as claimed in the above extract of their report. Their answer was:

The extract you quote in your email refers to the sensitivity analysis presented in [Rio Tinto’s] EIS.

So when they say “the Department has tested” Rio Tinto’s analysis, what they actually mean is “the Department has made absolutely no effort to test Rio Tinto’s analysis.”

The next stage for the Warkworth Mine is a hearing of the Planning Assessment Commission. Rio Tinto and the Planning Department are trying their hardest to convince the Commission that the mine is in the NSW community’s best interests.

But lying to the Commission and the NSW public doesn’t seem like a good way to start.    

Could new coal technology mean more coal will be burned? 

As global climate action finds new momentum, the coal industry is still arguing ‘clean coal’ gives it a role in a low carbon world. Environment Minister Greg Hunt has been touting the benefits of Direct Injection Carbon Engines as a way to clean up coal power. But the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says we have to move away from coal, ending all use by the end of the century. What gives?

So-called ‘clean coal’ is ‘clean’ in one of two ways. It either stops the emissions from getting into the atmosphere (Carbon Capture and Storage or CCS) or it is more efficient (‘High-efficiency, low-emissions’ power plants).

High efficiency coal plants get more power from coal, but don’t burn it any cleaner. So they can only help reduce emissions if we actually burn less coal. In fact, economists have known since the beginning of the industrial revolution that burning coal more efficiently can lead to a ‘rebound’ in coal use. Unsurprisingly, this isn’t part of the coal industry’s PR program.

The only other option is CCS. But CCS at commercial scale is still a long way off, needs huge new investment and a very high carbon price. Even then the experts say it is likely to be a small player and may not even be used on coal. So it’s a pretty poor excuse for the current rapid expansion of the coal industry.

You can read more about this on our Facts Fight Back website

TAI in the media

Slogans don’t make good policies
For humanity’s sake, leave carbon in the ground 
Tasmanian industry overstating costs of Renewable Energy Target
Tasmania big net beneficiary from RET, Australia Institute report finds 

Exciting news – Catalyst and TAI are merging!

Catalyst Australia, an influential not-for-profit policy network based in Sydney, is joining forces with the Institute. Together, we’ll provide more first-class research and progressive political analysis.  

If you’re in Sydney, join us for some Christmas drinks and nibbles to celebrate the new partnership. 

WHERE: Trades Hall Atrium, 4 Goulburn St, Sydney
WHEN:   4:30pm, Tuesday 16 December
RSVP via email to: mail@tai.org.au

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