Energy Minister rejects call for home gas ban and zero emissions for cars by 2040

The federal Labor government doesn't support a national ban on new gas connections, leaving it up to states and councils to lead the charge on residential electrification.

Federal energy and climate change minister has rejected two key calls by the Climate Change Authority (CCA) to phase out new gas connections for new and existing homes, and for vehicle fuel emissions standards that wind down to zero by 2040.

The call for the ban and phase out of gas connections was the most powerful recommendation by the CCA, and perhaps the most surprising given that the authority is chaired by Grant King, who as CEO of Origin Energy masterminded that company’s huge push into LNG.

The CCA presented 42 recommendations covering various industries, including an extension of the small scale renewable target that would be expanded to include household batteries and electric vehicle chargers.

But it also recommended the federal government work the states and territories to agree on a “coordinated, nationally consistent approach to phasing out new gas connections for residential and small commercial buildings and phase-out for existing gas connections.”

The ACT government has announced that its ban on new gas network connections to buildings in the ACT will commence on December 8, and will apply to all residential buildings, commercial land-use zones and community facility zones. Victoria is also imposing a ban, albeit less stringent.

However, federal Labor government does not support a national ban on gas connections to new or existing homes and wants to focus on energy efficiency measures such as its $1.7 billion Energy Savings Package. It says gas bans are best left to the individual states.

It is also baulking at the CCA’s recommendations that fuel efficiency standards be introduced that dial down to zero by 2040 at the latest, effectively calling for a ban on fossil fuel cars by that date, or earlier, as many EU countries have done.

The federal government, however, is still working through its proposed introduction of a vehicle fuel efficiency standard – Australia is one of the few in the world without one and has become a dumping ground for dirty cars as a result.

Federal Labor is also reluctant to set any phase out targets for light vehicles – possibly because the Murdoch and other media will have their outrage meters on maximum at the mere thought of fuel efficiency standards.

Its response was criticised by independents in the Lower House.

“I’m deeply disappointed they lack the courage to end gas connections to new homes – despite the CCA’s advice,” said Wentworth MP Allegra Spender.

“Our dependence on expensive gas has been a major driver of our energy bill challenges, and ending gas connections to new homes is a commonsense and widely supported measure to reduce the cost-of-living pressure facing Australian households.”

Another independent MP, Sophie Scamps, agreed.

“People building new houses are making decisions now about appliances and connections to services that last decades,” she said.

“It should not be left to councils to drive this change – but that’s what is happening.”

Rewiring Australia executive director, Dan Cass, said household electrification offers the fastest, most cost effective path to meet this target, while also delivering immediate bill relief to households grappling with a sustained cost of living crisis.

“No other climate solution immediately deploys proven, off-the-shelf technology to generate jobs, investment and the world’s cheapest energy, while also rapidly slashing emissions,” Cass said.

He said household electrification is the process of fitting homes with solar panels and a battery and then swapping out gas cooktops, gas hot water, gas heating and combustion engine cars with electrified versions such as induction stoves, electric heating and hot water and electric vehicles.

This article was published first on RenewEconomy. You can read it here.

Giles Parkinson
Editor, RenewEconomy
February 21, 2024
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