“It’s cooked:” How Victoria’s worst electricity outage helped get us off gas

After recent storms in Victoria fried her gas stove, Sophie Vorrath decided there was no going back - she invested in a portable one burner induction stove for $150.

Nothing brings out the renewable energy and electrification naysayers quicker than a good old fashioned blackout.

“Thank goodness for gas!” they exclaim with gleeful irony. “Imagine legislating to ban it from homes!”

This is a silly thing to say, because when an apocalyptic storm cell crumples transmission towers and takes out trees which take out powerlines, a reticulated gas supply is not all that much use in a residential setting.

In my household, for example, neither my gas stovetop nor the gas hot water system work without the help of electrons.

What’s more, in my household – located in one of the south-eastern Melbourne suburbs worst hit by the Tuesday storm – when power was restored after eight hours of flickering brownout, the gas stovetop was the only appliance that didn’t make a triumphant return.

It turns out that the alarming burnt-sparkler smell that immediately followed the huge crack of lightning that took out the power is likely to have come from the stovetop.

Something is cooked in the electrics and no amount of unplugging and replugging, German You Tube videos or manufacturer trouble shooting tips can bring it back to life.

Which means that one week out from the largest electricity grid outages Victoria has ever experienced, the lights are back on but we are still not cooking with gas.

Instead, unable to get a repair person to the house before this coming Thursday, we have seized the opportunity to try out a portable induction plate.

We bought a Baccarat 2000W Portable Cook, which was $150, reduced from $300. We didn’t really do much research aside from a quick sweep of the brands and prices on offer across the board. This seemed like a good deal under a bit of time pressure. There’s a built in timer and a child lock.

It’s been a revelation.

Sure, my first go at scrambled eggs was a bit of a disaster. Burnt butter, overcooked eggs and poorly timed toast.

But like most anything else, once you get your head around the quirks of the new technology, it’s all about the upsides.

To name but a few: No gas fumes; no burner switching off in the middle of cooking because the safety settings of the stove detected some issue with the gas flow and shut it down; boiling water in under a minute.

Far from clinging to old fossils in a storm, we have been jettisoned into the electric future and found it very agreeable.

And if the old gas stovetop is beyond (reasonably priced) repair, we will be switching to electric sooner than expected, with no looking back.

This article was first published on One Step off the Grid. You can read it here.

Sophie Vorrath
Editor, One Step Off the Grid
April 18, 2024
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