Myths about gas

Bans on new gas connections in the ACT and Victoria will eventually force the residential gas industry to face its own demise, but right now, they're refusing to go quietly.

First, some facts.

Transitioning to electric appliances in our homes and businesses, powered by renewable energy offers greater energy efficiency, reduced emissions, improved safety, and resilience in the face of a changing energy landscape.

On environmental, health and economic grounds, gas doesn’t stack up.

But as the move to get rid of gas in our homes and businesses gathers speed, push back from the gas industry which stands to lose from electrification, is inevitable.

In response to the ACT and Victoria’s announcements that new gas connections will be banned, the gas industry has ramped up its defence of gas, and attack on electrification, by peddling misinformation, fear, uncertainty, and denial.

We tackle a few of the latest myths, and some of the perpetual porkies that refuse to die:

 

Myth 1: “Like for like gas appliances are cheaper than heat pumps.”

 

False. Although gas appliances are usually cheaper to purchase than electric heat pumps, the running cost of gas appliances and heat pumps varies significantly. Modern heat pumps are significantly more energy-efficient than gas appliances, especially when used for heating. This results in lower overall energy bills. Only comparing the purchase price of appliances overlooks the long-term costs associated with gas, including fluctuating gas prices and infrastructure maintenance.

 
Myth 2: “Preventing new homes from connecting to gas will not lower emissions.”

 

False. Energy-efficient electrical appliances reduce overall energy consumption and, consequently, emissions compared to less efficient gas appliances. Removing gas from our homes will also prevent methane leakage, which result in significant emissions. The gas industry assumes electric appliances will continue to be powered by a coal and gas-powered grid, when it is abundantly clear that the grid is rapidly transitioning to renewables. As our electricity grid continues to decarbonise and transitions from its reliance on fossil fuels to cleaner renewable sources of energy, the reduction of emissions from powering our electric appliances will be substantial. An increasing proportion of household energy comes from rooftop solar, which has zero ongoing emissions. It’s also the cheapest source of home energy in the world and far cheaper than any type of gas.

 

Myth 3: “Preventing new homes from connecting to gas will cut people off from future opportunities.”

 

False. If the planet is to have a future, our homes will not be reliant on fossil fuels like gas. The future is renewables. Disconnecting from gas will not cut people off from future opportunities; it will provide an opportunity for a future.

  

Myth 4: "Gas is 50% cleaner than coal and oil energy sources."

 

False. While fossil fuel gas combustion emits fewer greenhouse gases compared to coal and oil, it is not accurate to claim that it is 50% cleaner. Gas is an expensive fuel with limited supply that’s not actually clean. The overall environmental impact of any energy source needs to consider its entire life cycle, including extraction, processing, transportation, and combustion. The primary component of natural gas is methane, a potent greenhouse gas. The leakage of methane during extraction, transportation, and distribution significantly contributes to global warming. Over a 20-year period methane has a much higher global warming potential than carbon dioxide. Comparing gas emissions with coal and oil, also ignores the fact that renewable energy sources produce little to no greenhouse gas emissions.

Myth 5: "Gas has a future. The gas industry is committed to decarbonising."

False. The future is renewables. The gas industry is buying time for as long as it can. If it was really committed to decarbonising it would encourage electrification. Transitioning to all-electric homes and businesses is the fastest way to make them net zero, not hanging on to gas appliances.

Myth 6: "The electricity network is not ready for rapid electrification."

False. The Australian Government is investing in additional transmission to ensure we have enough power to transition to an all-electric future. Overall energy demand is also anticipated to reduce by about 40% if we electrify everything because modern efficient electric appliances are much more energy efficient.

Myth 7: "Ducted gas heating operates independently of how cold it gets outside, unlike heat pumps."

False. The majority of heat pumps can be found in the coldest climates. More than half of all households in Norway have one.

 

Myth 8: “Gas appliances perform better.”

 

False. Gas industry marketing tries to create the perception that gas appliances provide better performance than electric alternatives. However, modern electric appliances, such as induction cooktops and heat pumps, offer superior performance in terms of precision, speed, and energy efficiency.

 

Myth 9: “Gas appliances are more reliable during power outages.”

 

False. The gas industry perpetuates the myth that gas appliances are more reliable during power outages, suggesting that they provide uninterrupted service. In reality, gas appliances may still require electricity to operate certain components like ignition systems, fans, and controls. Most gas heaters won’t work in a blackout as they rely on electric fans, although gas stoves and hot water systems can continue to work. Electric appliances can also be equipped with backup power solutions to ensure they function during power interruptions.

 

Myth 10: “Gas appliances are safer than electric appliances.”

 

False. Gas appliances carry inherent risks, such as gas leaks, carbon monoxide poisoning, and the potential for fires or explosions. Electric appliances, when properly installed and maintained, eliminate these risks. Furthermore, the widespread use of gas in homes has now been shown to have substantial negative health impacts, including the respiratory effects of nitrogen dioxide and the toxicity due to acute or chronic exposure to carbon monoxide.

 

Myth 11: “Gas appliances are necessary for professional cooking.”

 

False. There is a common perception that professional chefs and cooks prefer gas appliances for cooking. While gas cooktops have been traditionally popular in commercial kitchens, many professional chefs are embracing electric induction cooktops because they provide precise temperature control, rapid heat response, enhanced safety features, and because they have lower needs for extraction and are much easier to clean.

 

Myth 12: “Gas appliances are more durable and longer-lasting.”

 

False. The longevity of an appliance depends on various factors, including maintenance, build quality, and usage patterns. High-quality electric appliances can be equally durable and long-lasting.

 

Myth 13: “Gas appliances are essential for backup heating.”

 

False. The gas industry often asserts that gas appliances, such as gas furnaces or boilers, are the most reliable option for backup heating during extreme weather conditions. However, electric heat pumps have proven to be highly efficient and effective for heating, even in cold climates, and can also be supplemented with backup power systems.

 

If you hear any more myths about gas that you'd like tested, drop us a line at switchedon@reneweconomy.com.au

Author
Anne Delaney
SwitchedOn Editor
March 4, 2024
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