Position statement- Onshore gas development in the state of Victoria
Baw Baw Sustainability Network (BBSN) is opposed to any progress made on expanding Victorian natural gas supply- onshore and offshore. Burning fossil fuels of any type increases greenhouse gas emissions which cause climate change which threatens the health and lives of all of the world’s communities and indeed, the future of civilisation. There are better, cheaper and healthier alternatives to pursuing more gas in our system.
Our current use of natural gas
Victoria’s gas demand is currently around 200 petajoules per annum.[i] This is roughly the equivalent to the output of five Yallourn W stations, indicating our massive reliance on gas as an energy source. Victoria has the largest penetration of residential gas connections in the country. The following chart shows the Victorian gas demand for gas powered generation, residential and small business, and industrial use on August 9th 2019.[ii]
Residential and small business use is largely for space and water heating and makes up most of the daily winter demand. Summer demand is roughly one fifth of winter demand.
Our gas resources are finite
The current push for increasing exploration and mining of gas is due to declining output from the major Victorian gas fields in Bass Strait.[iii] In our opinion, it does not make sense to respond to this declining output by searching for more sources of gas thus kicking the can down the road in the effort to reverse climate change. Instead, we should respond intelligently, quickly and strongly, using proven gas replacement technologies. Just as we did not stop using stone tools for lack of stones but for better alternatives, our move to clean energy sources represents a logical step to something better.
What we should do
The lowest hanging fruit in our use of energy is in efficiency improvements. Using gas to generate heat is inherently inefficient because there is unavoidable waste heat and therefore one unit of gas energy input results in less than one unit of heat output. In contrast, heat pump technology takes one unit of electrical energy and outputs up to seven units of heat. That is possible because the heat pump does not generate the heat but simply gathers it from the surroundings (usually air) and pumps it to where it is needed.
Each of the major segments of the gas market have proven replacement technologies.
1. Gas powered generation.
There is already a growing and unstoppable wave of large scale renewable electricity generation development across the country, including Victoria. The speed of the regulatory and market operating environment is a significant cause of delay in the transition.[iv] The Victorian government has already indicated its intention to break free of some of the national policy mess to drive local solutions to these issues. We believe our state government should do more to ensure rapid uptake of renewable generation and storage solutions that will replace the need for gas powered generation.