Neil Perry has adopted it, Assemble has gone gas free and Davina Rooney says it’s a must on the road to Paris
Calls to cut gas use for buildings gained traction in Victoria this week following the release on Sunday of the state’s emissions targets.
The Yarra City Council said it would transition its pools, gyms, and other council facilities away from natural gas entirely by 2030.
Support for gas-free residential building has been building for some time, and new technologies have left fewer excuses for doubters and big gas advocates to hide behind.
While residential gas use is less emissions intensive than the manufacturing or energy generation sectors, when gas is burnt in the home for cooking or heating it creates the same type of emissions that end up in the atmosphere.
According to industry representative, Energy Networks, Victoria uses more gas each year than any other state, making up roughly 69 per cent of total household energy.
When the report was published in 2017, gas connections were on the rise in Australia and as Energy Networks pointed out, customer research showed the majority of people preferred natural gas for cooking, hot water and heating their homes.
Across Australia, cooking actually accounts for just 4 per cent of residential natural gas use, compared to 60 per cent for space heating, according to the Grattan Institute’s Flame Out report released last year.
However, that little blue flame on top of the stove has shown its capacity to ignite more resistance and hesitancy, and therefore the power to maintain dependency, than other gas powered appliances.
“I love cooking on gas too, but there are certain luxuries that we are going to have to abandon if we are serious about climate change,” City of Yarra mayor Gabrielle de Vietri told The Age.
Cooking with gas
For most consumers, switching gas to electric for home and water heating is a transition they will hardly recognise. Stovetop cooking in comparison is right before their eyes.
Induction stoves by most accounts take some getting used to, but once they are embraced are even more efficient for cooking than a traditional gas stovetop.
Star Aussie chef, Neil Perry was one of the early adopters of the technology and was so impressed he launched his own brand of induction cooktops.
“They’re far easier to clean down after use, which is one of the main reasons we chose induction over gas,” Mr Perry said in a 2017 interview with GoodFood.
“It’s much faster to cook with induction: you can increase or drop the temperature far more quickly, which is a more efficient use of energy.”
Induction stoves do require compatible cookware, however most existing kitchen utensils as long as they are magnetic may already be compatible, including cast iron.
Gas-free residential projects already exist
Melbourne developer Assemble Communities will go completely gas-free for its latest 171-unit project in Brunswick due to start construction later this year.
The project was designed by Fieldwork architects, led by director Joachim Holland. He told The Fifth Estate that with the development’s renewable energy power purchase agreements, using electric appliances was obviously a far more sustainable solution than gas.
“It’s an all electric building so we’re doing for example induction cooking and heating and cooling via electric airconditioning. It’s really meaning that the buildings can be future-proofed,” Mr Holland said.
“A few years ago when induction cooking wasn’t particularly good there was a bit of a trade off, but induction cooktops are now absolutely terrific, and electric hot water systems are really terrific now as well.”
He said that at the moment electric hot water systems were more expensive to run than gas, but the company made the decision as part of their commitment to sustainability.
“Assemble is very much framing itself as a developer that does deliver well designed and also sustainable homes and I think their target audience does respond really well to that.”
The Green Building Council of Australia is encouraging the industry to go entirely electric and changing their Green Star rating to reflect that stance.
Already, newly registered 6-Star Green Star buildings are required to be fossil fuel free, and under the GBCAs new roadmap, that requirement will move to 5-Star in 2023 and 4-Star by 2026.
“We’re incredibly engaged on this issue,” Green Building Council chief executive Davina Rooney told The Fifth Estate.
“If you look at the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC)…it indicates that the pathway to Paris is paved by highly efficient electrified buildings powered by renewables.”
Ms Rooney acknowledged that eliminating gas was a relatively new part of the conversation, having for a long time been considered a lesser emitting transition fuel, and there were cultural considerations to be made from a consumer perspective as buildings electrify.
“Even in my own sustainable home retro-fit, my husband’s Indian and loves making rotis, so that’s a conversation we had to have,” she said.
However, she added with a sharpening focus on sustainability in Australia, and Paris emissions targets worldwide, going fossil fuel free has become increasingly imperative in reaching zero emissions.
“The race to zero has never been sharper and so for consumers there are a number of people that are still catching up in that space as the world radically changes around them.”