11 April 2013 — [Updated 22 April 2013] Ending gas use in buildings “is the low-hanging fruit of a larger fossil fuel phase” that needs to be done to avoid a climate catastrophe, Beyond Zero Emission’s Richard Keech says.

Mr Keech, who is working on the Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan for BZE, said “clean electricity now makes fossil gas redundant”.

BZE has just published a briefing paper, by Mr Keech, on the use of gas as a fuel in buildings which shows that the reputation of fossil gas as a clean, safe and cheap fuel needs to be re-considered.

The organisation has criticised the fossil gas industry for increasingly “using dirty and controversial coal-seam gas” for both export and domestic gas supply.

Mr Keech said that in the production and distribution of gas there were leaks “all along the way”.

“There was some limited data out of South Australia that suggested it was in the order of 7 per cent, but the official figures put it at around 1.5 per cent. In reality it’s probably somewhere in between,” he said.

Mr Keech said fossil gas was methane and the the 20-year climate effect of methane was currently understood to be about 105 times that of CO2.

“It only takes about 2.6* per cent leakage to effectively double the net climate effect of gas.

“With any technology that carries some risk, we weigh the hazard against the benefits.

“That balance has now shifted, especially as fossil gas supply is now moving to CSG. We’re seeing that the hazard is much greater than it was once seen as, and the benefit much less.

“Ceasing gas use in buildings is the low-hanging fruit of a larger fossil fuel phase out that is ultimately necessary if a climate catastrophe is to be avoided.”

BZE will release the Zero Carbon Australia Buildings Plan in mid 2013.

The plan will outline how replacing buildings’ gas appliances with renewable electricity powered heat pumps and induction cooktops can make a large reduction on carbon emissions and energy use.

*This article has been updated to correct an error, that “it only takes about 2.6 per cent leakage to effectively double the net climate effect of gas”. The article previously said 1 per cent.

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  1. It amazes me that broad brush statements can still be made today and then published, when there is obviously limited knowledge behind the points stated. Not only are there mistakes in this article as identified by others, but there are also some very basic principal points here that are being sidelined, such as:

    – From working in the built environment for 20 years, I can assure you that the gas mains in buildings do not leak, otherwise people die. Therefore, it is not the buildings being supplied by gas that are the issue, it is the infrastructure that is the issue. Surely this article would have been better placed on specifically targeting ‘aging infrastructure’. However, if this were contemplated, then the author would have had to investigate the enormous losses that occur every minute in the electricity grids across Australia.
    – Does the author truly understand the energy efficiency benefits of tri-gereation within buildings, which have fuel use efficiencies from burning gas of >80% compared to the electricity grid that is <40%.
    – Does the author really believe that base load electricity can be generated by solar techologies that are capable of supporting industrial processes, health systems etc?
    – If solar electrical storage becomes the next electricity focus, please enlighten us on where these storage vessels will be located and what happens to the waste generated by these products over time?

    I do not pretend to be an expert on this subject, infact I am far from that enviable position. However, simply stating broad brush comments regarding gas and its destructive characteristics where we should disconnect all buildings from the gas supply and reconnect to the overburdened electricity grid, costing Billions in the process, is simply a discredit to the readers of this article.

  2. Small error in that statement from BZE (where I work) that we subsequently corrected – the gas leakage rate to double gas’ emissions is 2.6% not 1%. Still low enough to cause a big problem for gas networks, though.