12 August 2022

The Conservation Council ACT Region is warning new apartment buyers in Canberra to check if their new home purchase will be connected to the gas network for hot water or cooking, after finding out that many multi-unit developments are still building with gas hot water. 

While the ACT Government is expected to legislate to stop new builds being connected to the gas network from 2023, there are hundreds, if not thousands of apartments on the market, or in planning stages right now, that are installing gas hot water systems and cooktops. 

Canberran Elle Lawless has been contacting developers to find out if apartment dwellings will be using gas as she investigates possible locations to purchase her first home. As a young person who has always been very concerned about the impacts of climate change, Elle is not just seeking sustainability measures, such as energy efficiency, double glazing and green space, but also wants to make sure that her new dwelling won’t be reliant on polluting fossil fuel into the future. 

“I’ve spent my life witnessing ever increasing extreme weather events from bushfires in my hometown as a child, to droughts crippling farmland and floods destroying livelihoods; the last thing I want to do is contribute to the problem by buying a property that is reliant on fossil gas, especially as the ACT uses 100% renewable electricity. But it can be hard to find apartments that aren’t using gas,”  said Elle. 

“I found only a small number of developments that are all-electric – such as W2 and Woden Green in Woden. Most other developments are installing gas for hot water, and some, like the Art Group developments on Northbourne, are still offering gas cooktops. 

“Given the ACT has been talking about phasing out the gas network completely, and confirmed this position last week, I was surprised to find how many developments in Canberra are still connecting new buildings to the gas network.

“One thing that didn’t change last week, and that we have known about for a decade, is the imperative to cut greenhouse emissions, and the development sector has been slow to respond,”  said Ms Lawless.

The Conservation Council ACT Region is concerned that thousands of new apartments being sold right now are going to be reliant on the gas network, and that this will pose challenges for homeowners in the future as they need to transition to all-electric units. 

Construction of gas-connected dwellings is persisting despite the ACT Government setting a clear policy direction on gas, and even worse, despite the clear science on climate change that says we must stop using fossil fuels. 

“Developers are continuing to build using gas hot water, locking residents into consuming fossil fuels and placing the burden of future transition costs onto apartment owners. Geocon alone has over 2500 apartments recently on the market that are expected to be hooked up to the gas network for hot water,” said Helen Oakey, Executive Director. 

“The technology for all-electric multi-unit developments exists now, and there are already examples in the ACT that are using instantaneous electric hot water instead of gas. Multi unit developments in new urban areas might not have access to the gas network, and so are already planning to be all-electric.

“The construction sector needs to pivot more quickly towards all-electric developments, instead of continuing with business as usual. We are facing a climate emergency and everyone has a responsibility to step up, and step up fast. 

“We welcome the ACT Government’s commitment last week to phase out gas, and hope that the development and construction sector is hearing the message loud and clear now. Irrespective of the government’s 2023 timeline, developers should do what they can right now to drive emissions down, instead of locking future residents into appliances and technologies that won’t be viable in the future.

“Getting established buildings off the gas grid will be challenging enough, without exacerbating the problem by building more gas-dependent apartments,” said Ms Oakey.