Environmental benefits of getting off gas

The ongoing and widespread use of fossil gas is inconsistent with the need for Australia and the world to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

Australia, along with 187 other countries, has signed up to the Paris Agreement on climate change, which sets a target of net zero emissions during the second half of this century. All Australian states and territories have committed to achieve net zero emissions by 2050 or earlier. About 19 per cent of Australia’s greenhouse gas emissions come from natural gas.

Gas was historically a lower emissions fuel than electricity produced with coal – but the growth of renewables means that electrification is now a pathway to reducing emissions. To meet our zero carbon targets, at the current rate of transition, we must replace around 18 million natural gas and LPG appliances with electric alternatives before 2050. That equates to around 650,000 appliances being changed over in around 400,000 homes and apartments each year.

Clearly, Australian households value gas. But the use of gas causes greenhouse gas emissions since gas is no longer a lower-emissions energy option than electricity. To decarbonise our energy systems at the rate required, a huge amount of Australia’s gas, petrol and diesel use will need to be electrified, especially in buildings and light transport.

While electrifying homes is a critical immediate step to reduce emissions from gas, it is only one part of the story. Australia is a major global producer of natural gas. In 2019 Australia was the world’s seventh largest gas producer. Over 70 per cent of all the gas produced in Australia is liquefied and exported as LNG, and another 7 per cent is used to fuel the export liquefaction facilities. Of the gas not used for export, about 38 per cent is used for power generation and 35 per cent for manufacturing.

As more houses (and businesses) turn to electrification, there will be a reduction in emissions as the electricity grid is increasingly supplied from renewable energy sources.

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