The calendar says winter is over. Warmer days lie ahead.
But this past winter was one when Australians in all-electric homes could be comfortable and count the dollars saved while burning no fossil gas.
Home-economic studies show Australians can save money with all-electric homes by tapping in to renewable heat and disconnecting from the gas-supply grid.
By using air-source heat pumps for space heating (aka reverse-cycle air conditioners), heat pumps also for heating water, induction cook-tops, and possibly also solar-PV panels on the roof, Australians can reduce energy bills by thousands of dollars per year.
You might end up having no (net) energy bill at all.
In eastern Australia, we’ve already seen the first round of gas price shocks.
Gas is now too expensive to burn.
While industry has trouble contracting affordable gas supplies, we shouldn’t be wasting gas by burning it in our homes when there are cheaper heating alternatives – including finding the “heat” button for that reverse-cycle air con hanging on the lounge-room wall.
And now we learn that more gas price shocks are on the way. Gas production from the Bass Strait, dominant for 50 years, is finally winding down. Out in the Strait, recent gas-exploration drilling has so far come up empty.
The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) admits that it has no firm idea where half of our gas will come from in winter 2025, just six winters from now. ExxonMobil and others have proposed that gas be brought in via new floating gas-import terminals.
Even if we don’t know where gas will come from in 2025, we can assume that imported gas won’t be cheap.
Thinking of buying a gas hot-water service to see you through the next 20 years?
So a reminder – we can future-proof our homes and enjoy tiny energy bills.
At our old weatherboard house in Melbourne, we heat with reverse-cycle air cons for one-third the cost of running the old ducted gas heating.
While some old homes still burning gas might see winter gas bills in the thousands of dollars, with some attention also to energy efficiency measures – draught-proofing, insulation, improved windows and window-treatments – our August space-heating bill came in at $33.
Via a social-media research project named “My Efficient Electric Home”, we see thousands of Australians achieving similar results.
One popular topic on-line is negotiating the hurdles you must jump when you ask the gas company to remove their meter from your property and to stop mailing out bills.
Researchers say we can’t be sure just how bad is the climate impact of eastern-Australia’s fossil gas.
However we do know our gas supplies are getting “dirtier” as time goes by.
The original Bass Strait “sweet” gas fields are running down, so the gas companies now resort to other fields containing high levels of naturally-occurring carbon dioxide.
At the gas-processing plants, this climate-disrupting contaminant is removed and simply vented into our atmosphere.
Despite community objections, oil and gas companies seek approval for “unconventional” coal-seam and shale-gas production methods, despite the long-term impacts on climate, community health, and water supplies.
Whereas on the other hand, we can be sure that up to 80% of the heat we get out of an air-source heat pump is free and clean renewable heat that these devices collect from the “thin-air” outside our homes. (Recognising this, the Australian government offers renewable-energy credits for some heat pump installations.)
Couple your electrically-driven heat pump with renewable electricity obtained from the electricity grid or from your own solar PV panels, and you can warm your home while generating no greenhouse-gas emissions at all.
Many all-electric homes were showcased across Australia during the recent Sustainable House Day.
As future gas supplies become more costly and damaging, we need to focus on getting all our homes off fossil gas.
If we’re not using any gas in 2025, then we won’t need to speculate about from where it might have come.
Tim Forcey is an independent energy advisor who has worked with organisations such as the University of Melbourne, the Australian Energy Market Operator, Jemena and BHP.