After the ACT reaches its 2020 Renewable Electricity Target, natural gas will become the ACT’s second largest generator of greenhouse gases, accounting for 21 per cent of emissions. Minister Shane Rattenbury said in 2018 that “Gas is going to be a significant source of emissions we’re going to need to tackle here in the ACT”.

 The Conservation Council ACT Region recently held an Environment Exchange to discuss the role of gas ACT bringing together guest speakers William Yeap, Gas Networks Branch Manager at Evoenergy, Jessica Stewart, Sustainability Manager at Ginninderry, and Dr James Prest, Senior lecturer in law at the ANU Energy Change Institute.

Evoenergy discussed how a hydrogen economy is developing in other parts of the world, and in Australia with regards to the potential for hydrogen to decarbonise the ACT gas network. Ginninderry presented their vision to be Canberra’s first suburb without gas. Ginninderry had to request a variation to the Territory Plan (which mandates gas connection in new suburbs) and faced regulatory and political complexities in their efforts to create a ‘no gas’ suburb. And finally, Dr Prest talked us through some of the policy and legal issues that come up when considering the decarbonisation of the gas sector, outlining the international and Australian landscape on the viability of renewable biogas – the capture of methane from agricultural, landfill and other waste facilities, upgrading the gas to biomethane and injecting this bioenergy into the natural gas network.

If the ACT is to achieve net zero emissions by 2045, then we are going to need a plan to reduce emissions coming from our gas use. Once considered a “transition fuel”, it’s become clear that emissions from gas are the next challenge in the ACT. We need to electrify our appliances so that we can run our houses and businesses on clean renewable electricity.

How will we transition from gas, and shift investment away from new gas industries? What are the implications for those in our community already dependent on gas for heating and cooking appliances? We know we have great electric technologies that mean we don’t need to use gas in our homes, but upgrading heating and cooking systems can be expensive, and it’s important that we don’t leave behind those who can least afford to upgrade.

The Conservation Council wants the ACT Government to map out a clear plan to reduce carbon emissions produced from gas in the ACT, and to ensure that our regulatory systems supports this. It’s also time to engage the Canberra community in a conversation about gas – how we use it, and how we give it up!