Gas in Bayside: The beginning of the end?

Council to seek advice from the state government on the feasibility of banning gas in new developments in Bayside.

Bayside Council will investigate the viability of prohibiting gas installations in new buildings, with a motion passing to seek advice from the NSW Department of Planning on the issue.

The motion was presented by Cr Greta Werner at last week's council meeting in an effort to save residents money on their power bills, reduce carbon emissions and the adverse health effects of gas on the community, and future-proof the suburb for a renewable energy future.

The move may see council follow in the footsteps of other LGAs including Canterbury-Bankstown, which has refused developers gas connections on some new buildings.

“Advocates such as Saul Griffith, say that each household can save $5000 per year on energy bills by electrifying homes,” said Cr Werner.

Saul Griffith, inventor and renewable energy advocate, has made headlines with his ambitious proposals to “electrify everything” with existing, cheap technology to rapidly decarbonise the Australian economy.

“This motion is to simply find out what we can actually do as a council to put a prohibition on gas…I think this would save people a lot of money in the future and be really beneficial for our residents,” said Cr Werner.

The first part of the two-pronged motion, which proposes council facilities are electrified when current gas facilities need upgrading or renovations, attracted little debate as council already plans to go ahead with this.

Its more ambitious component, however – to investigate putting a community-wide moratorium on gas – was criticised by other councillors at the meeting.

“Great idea maybe, but there is a lot of money that has to come out for everybody; it’s not just if you have the induction heating, you’ve got to have new saucepans,” said Cr Liz Barlow, who is sceptical of electrification.

“I believe in gas; that’s my problem. I’ve worked with it in my house for forty-odd years,” the councillor said.

Currently, residents who want to go gas-free must pay a disconnection fee from the gas main.

Cr Werner, who put the motion forward, said that from her experience, switching off gas is inexpensive, saves money on power bills and that over “80% of pans” worked on her portable induction cooktop that she and her family now uses instead of their gas stove.

Werner also claimed that a prohibition on gas in new buildings would not ban the use of portable gas bottles.

Another critic of the idea, Cr Mark Hanna, said he would prefer to see “market forces” slowly push gas out of the market rather than “imposing things onto people,” while Cr Ed McDougall questioned whether such a ban would have any effect on carbon emissions.

“People aren’t going to stop using their heaters because they have switched from gas to electricity, and that electricity will ultimately come from gas until you are actually pulling fossil fuels out of the electricity network,” said Cr McDougall.

Responding to these concerns, ardent supporter of climate action Cr Heidi Lee Douglas emphasised council’s role in addressing climate while saving residents money and reducing gas-related illness.

“The renewable transition is happening at the federal and state level, and by future-proofing our local buildings here, by getting them off gas, we are actually saving them from future costs of transitioning out of gas,” she said.

“We know we have to get out of gas, we know we have to get out of coal, we have signed the Paris Agreement.”

While gas emits roughly 50% less greenhouse gas than coal, vast quantities of methane that can escape during gas extraction can make this difference much smaller.

Gas in homes is estimated by the Climate Council to be responsible for 12% of childhood asthma in Australia. Photo: Climate Council

According to a report by the Climate Council, gas in homes significantly increases rates of illness, including asthma and cancer, which disproportionately affects children.

“A child living with gas cooking in the home faces a comparable risk of asthma to a child living with household cigarette smoke,” said the report.

Advice from the Department of Planning is expected to be reported at the next Planning and Environment Committee meeting on May 10.

“We have transitioned out of gas in our home very simply by buying a cheap induction cooktop and an air-fryer; we didn’t have to change any of our pots and pans, it was very simple, and it actually saved us money,” said Cr Douglas.

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