What is the Future of Gas?

On Tuesday 26 February 2019, we held our first Environment Exchange for 2019. ‘The Future of Gas: a pipe dream?’ asked the hard questions about the role and place for gas in the ACT. 

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”. We need to take a good hard look at ways to decarbonise the gas sector to achieve net zero emissions by 2045 in the ACT.

We heard from guest speakers William Yeap (Evoenergy), Jessica Stewart (Ginninderry) and Dr James Prest (ANU Energy Change Institute). 

William Yeap is Evoenergy‘s Gas Networks branch manager. William’s presentation demonstrated how a hydrogen economy is developing in other parts of the world, and gave an insight into what is happening in Australia to develop hydrogen use and the potential for hydrogen to decarbonise the ACT gas network. You can view his presentation here.

Jessica Stewart is the Sustainability Manager of the Ginninderry development in West Belconnen, which is Canberra’s 6 Star Green Star rated community. Jess talked about Ginninderry’s aim to become the first Canberra suburb without natural gas, in a trial that could determine if other new developments will also be solely powered by electricity. She explained how Ginninderry had to request a variation to the Territory Plan (which mandates gas connection in new suburbs – something we should perhaps question?) and the regulatory and political complexities of creating a ‘no gas’ suburb. You can view her presentation here.

Dr James Prest is a Senior Lecturer in law specialising in environmental law at the ANU. James presented on the policy and legal issues relating to the decarbonisation of the gas sector. He gave an insight into the international and Australian landscape on renewable biogas. Biogas involves capturing methane from agricultural, landfill and other waste facilities, upgrading the gas to biomethane and injecting this bioenergy into the natural gas network. 

Some of the questions we discussed include:

  • If we want to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions to zero, how can there be a place for gas? Is gas irreplaceable as an energy source? 
  • What would replace it and how would that happen? 
  • Should we distinguish between the emissions from fossil fuel gas and biogas?
  • What will become of the big industries producing and selling gas? 
  • Do we need to transition to an end date? 
  • How do we transition our community when they already have appliances in place? 

The outcomes of discussions seem that we need to do the following in the ACT to properly address the gas issue:

  1. We need the ACT government to take responsibility of the issue and allocate a decision-maker to begin mapping our path to a decarbonised gas sector.
  2. We need regulatory incentives to support the research, development and production of renewable gas. 
  3. We need community participation in the gas issue. Evoenergy are developing a strategic map for the future of gas in their company and will be seeking community consultation in the coming months. We will notify you of requests for community feedback.

Our next Environment Exchange will be Tuesday 26 March 2019 at the Renewable Innovation Hub from 12NOON – 2PM. A free ploughman lunch and tea and coffee will again be provided. Register here.


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