Horizon Power’s plan to shift the Western Australian town of Esperance off the reticulated gas network has been realised, with the private gas network owner and operator on Friday cutting its supply to the coastal community.
Following the milestone first transition of a household to an all-electric energy supply in August of last year, Horizon says the around 400 Esperance residents and businesses have now made the switch from reticulated gas to “an alternative energy source,” with the majority said to have elected for electrification.
Esperance’s journey to electrification started in September of 2021, when the Esperance Gas Distribution Company revealed that it could not commercially continue to supply gas and operate the reticulated gas network, and intended to cease operations in March 2022.
The state-owned utility Horizon Power decided that quitting the reticulated gas supply, entirely, would offer the greatest benefits for customers and the broader community, with the least risks. It then negotiated a 12-month extension to give the town time to make the shift.
The process was then set in motion just over a year ago, when the state government committed $10.5 million in financial support for 258 private residential and 41 business customers to quit gas.
The transition program, managed by state-owned Horizon Power, offered financial assistance for existing gas customers to remove their gas appliances and replace them with new ‘like for like’ electric alternatives, including installation costs and electrical work.
Businesses were also offered free independent energy audits, with a grant scheme providing financial support for their chosen transition pathway.
Horizon says a small number of customers are still to make the transition in the coming months, with some businesses making a commercial decision to postpone while others are awaiting specific appliances.
“This is a significant milestone for the state, demonstrating the first electrification of its kind for Australia,” said WA energy minister bill Johnston on Friday.
“The project sets a benchmark for the rest of the country. While other organisations are in their planning stages, Horizon Power is making things happen.
“This project will serve as a blueprint for other electrification works around the country.”
And while Esperance’s disconnection from gas was fast-tracked by local market economics, it is becoming increasingly clear that the electrification of homes and businesses on all parts of Australia’s grid is the best way forward, economically and environmentally.
Electrification policy think tank and lobby group Rewiring Australia last week called on the federal government to set aside more than $12 billion in the upcoming federal budget to help fast-track the electrification of homes and businesses.
Rewiring Australia co-founders Saul Griffith and Dan Cass argue the relatively small spend of $12.5 billion will deliver fast and deep benefits, including a reduction in average household energy bills by up to $5000 a year.
State governments are already making moves to grasp the opportunity on electrification.
“Gas is no longer the cheap fuel it once was,” Victoria’s energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said last year, when the state released its landmark Gas Substitution Roadmap, removing the obligation of new homes to connect to the gas network and paving the way for all electric homes.
Victoria follows the ACT government, which has set up incentives for households to shift away from the use of gas in their homes through an expanded energy efficiency scheme, and which has helped fund the construction of gas free suburbs.