Horizon Power’s plan to shift the entire Western Australian town of Esperance off the reticulated gas network made its start this week, with the first household successfully transitioned to an all-electric energy supply.
The Labor McGowan government announced the milestone for the Energy Transition plan, which is converting 379 gas customers in the WA south coast town to alternative energy solutions ahead of the closure of the area’s privately-owned gas network in March 2023.
The electrification of Esperance was set in motion in April of this year, 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, which is being managed by state-owned utility Horizon Power, offers 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 can get free independent energy audits, with a grant scheme providing financial support for their chosen transition pathway.
“Today’s announcement marks an important milestone for this exciting project, which provides significant benefits to the Esperance community,” said WA energy minister Bill Johnston on Tuesday.
“Customers are telling us the process is simple and straight-forward, and the level of support they have received from Horizon Power has been excellent.
“The McGowan government remains committed to ensuring impacted customers have a choice in their new energy solutions.”
To this end, Horizon Power is offering the option to support a conversion of appliances to liquefied petroleum gas (LPG), but this is strictly under circumstances where full electrification is deemed not economically or technically feasible.
Otherwise, the clear message to the people of Esperance – which is also in the process of meeting nearly half of its energy needs via a renewable microgrid combining solar, wind and battery storage – is to seize the opportunity to quit gas.
“Converting to electricity reduces greenhouse gas emissions and aligns with the Shire of Esperance’s Climate Change Declaration and supports the WA Government’s commitment to zero emissions by 2050,” Horizon’s Esperance Energy Transition Plan Customer Hub says.
“Energy efficient electric appliances often have lower running costs than their gas equivalents and mean more of a household’s energy consumption will come from renewable energy, helping to decrease greenhouse gas emissions in the Esperance community.
“Complete home electrification also reduces supply and service charges by having less energy sources and suppliers in the home.”
Esperance’s journey to electrification came about as a result of local market economics, but 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.
“Gas is no longer the cheap fuel it once was,” Victoria’s energy minister Lily D’Ambrosio said last month, 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.