A few months ago I decided to become a member of the Alternative Technology Association (ATA). I did this mainly for the Renew and Sanctuary magazines, which feature articles ranging from sustainable energy options through to walkthroughs of new sustainably built houses.
That all sounds quite noble, but really I just wanted to look a more pretty house pictures.
Anyhow, they’ve just released a new report on the economics of gas vs electric appliances, and I thought I’d share the results. Brace yourselves for a bit of copy and paste, because I know clicking links can be annoying.
Many households in Australia would be better off switching from gas to efficient electric appliances according to a major new study by the Alternative Technology Association (ATA).
The report Are We Still Cooking with Gas? found that the combination of increasing gas prices and improving electric appliance efficiency is making electricity a cheaper option for many traditionally gas-fuelled energy needs – including space heating, water heating and cooking. Efficient electric appliances include heat pump hot water systems, induction cook tops and split system reverse cycle air-conditioners.
The research found that new homes and existing electric-only homes in Victoria, NSW, SA, QLD, the ACT and Tasmania are likely to be locking themselves into higher energy costs over the longer term by connecting to the gas network. This is particularly relevant to homes in new estates, as well as rural and regional households connecting to newly expanding gas networks – often driven by government-subsidised roll out programs.
The analysis is the first piece of detailed research that considers the impact of future gas price rises on residential households in Australia.
Damien Moyse, the ATA’s policy and research manager, said increasing wholesale gas prices were already starting to bite, and would continue to push up household gas bills.
“We have reached a tipping point,” Mr Moyse said. “No longer can households automatically assume that gas is the cheapest fuel source for household energy needs. This is counter-intuitive to the perception of gas as a cheap fuel over the past three decades.”
The economics of switching from gas to electricity is best in the warmer climate regions of the country, including South Australia, Queensland and many parts of NSW. These regions typically also have higher gas energy charges.
Among a number of recommendations, the report called for an improvement in energy concessions to address cost-of-living impacts caused by gas price rises. It also called for the replacement of government programs to expand gas networks with ones that directly address energy affordability in regional areas.
“Our advice to households is to do your research when your next gas appliance needs to be replaced and don’t simply assume that gas is the cheapest option – as you may be locking yourself into higher prices for a long time to come,” Mr Moyse said.
The report basically confirms what I had started to suspect anyway.
(I’m pretty annoyed at the complete exclusion of WA from the report, but there is a map on page 87 that shows we’re in the same climatic zone as Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, and Adelaide, so we can probably be fairly confident in extrapolating. The reason for our exclusion is that WA is not part of the National Energy Market, which means that the state government is responsible for regulating the retail energy market instead of the Australian Energy Regulator. I doubt gas prices here are significantly different, though if anyone knows any better please tell. Surprisingly, there’s no discussion on this report in the forums).
While we’re still getting mains gas connected, mainly for our outdoor kitchen, it means that we might need to question what sort of booster system we want for our solar hot water system. We were all set to go with gas, but now we’re thinking of switching to electric.
I think researching the hot water system is going to be more painful than I’d thought.
Just did a quick search and found this site, which says: “There are considerable differences in retail gas prices for each of the states, the cheapest being Victoria followed by Western Australia, South Australia, New South Wales and Queensland.”
However, it then goes on to add: “Retail gas prices in Australia have generally trended upwards in the last few years, especially in Western Australia.”