When Kate Mason heard the ACT Government wanted to be a net zero emissions city by 2045, she thought of her under-construction townhouse in Narrabundah.
“We decided it’s probably easier to have all-electrical appliances from the time we move in rather than retrofitting them down the track,” she said.
She and her husband contacted their developer and told them they didn’t want a gas connection as part of their home.
“For us, gas wasn’t a make or break when we purchased the property … it’s something that just came with the build,” Ms Mason said.
“While it’s costing us $6500 [extra] to get electrical appliances installed now, for us, this isn’t a huge sum when you compare it to ongoing costs associated with having gas connected.
“But more than that, it’s a small price to pay to be as environmentally sustainable as we can … the cost down the track was going to be more than it is upfront now.”
Since the ACT Government removed the legislated requirement for all new developments to have gas connections, it hoped more people would choose to only electrify their new homes.
This hasn’t happened, with about 80 per cent of all new homes in the Territory still connecting to gas – homes which would need to be electrified by 2045.
So the government is pushing forward with regulating the prevention of new fossil fuel gas network connections in the ACT.
It hopes this will come into effect this November and has called for feedback on the proposed regulation before it becomes law.
A senior ACT Government Emissions Reduction official said there’s currently “no real incentive” for people or developers not to include gas connections in new builds, and this regulation would close that gap.
“We don’t want people to pursue a gas connection now that will be out-of-date in a decade,” they said.
“[This] is a clear direction for all people in the community that this is a viable pathway to emission reduction.”
The government’s particularly concerned about developers of multi-storey apartment buildings still hooking up to gas, which would leave buyers with the bill to electrify the complexes in the future.
“Property developers, architects and builders – who often decide to install a gas connection in a new building – have limited incentives to consider the additional long-term costs of a gas connection on tenants and owners,” the issues paper stated.
“We know that by allowing new fossil fuel gas connections to continue, we create a larger transition problem that will need to be funded by building owners and energy users in the future.
“While single residential properties may be able to undertake this transition [from gas to electricity] with limited cost and technical difficulty, medium and high-density properties which rely on fossil fuel gas can pose a particularly complex and high-cost transition challenge.
“The longer we delay, the higher the transition costs will be.”
Transition issues identified could include the cost of new appliances (potentially before the end of their economic life), the available space to retrofit electric appliances, switchboard upgrades, strata arrangements, engineering challenges for centralised hot water systems, and the potential that people would have to move out of their apartment while the retrofit was underway.
The paper identified about one-third of all new mixed-use, medium and high-density properties were connected to gas.
“Designing and building new properties to be all-electric from the start will avoid these future costs for building owners,” the paper argued.
The government plans to use planning zones to identify areas where gas connections are prohibited in the regulation and ban them in all residential and commercial zones.
This would bring knock-down rebuilds under the regulation.
The ACT Government’s also speaking with regulators to remove the cost of disconnecting existing gas connections for homeowners, which it acknowledged could be prohibitive.
Evoenergy estimated it had about 7700 ‘non-consuming’ connections on the network, with 5200 of these temporarily disconnecting their service but not removing the infrastructure.
The regulation would not apply to plumbed gas or LPG connections, which could become options for situations where gas is still needed.
Energy and Emissions Reduction Minister Shane Rattenbury said the proposed regulation was an important step in readying the city for an all-electric future.
“The days of cheap gas are over,” he said.
“I look forward to hearing community ideas on how we achieve the best outcome for Canberra households, businesses and industry.”