A leading plumbing industry association has slammed proposed bans on new gas connections in the City of Sydney and other local council areas across New South Wales.

The Master Plumbers Association of NSW has hit out at a proposed ban on gas in new residential builds within the City of Sydney municipality.

The Association has also criticised moves to electrify buildings in other local government areas across the state.

“The Master Plumbers Association (MPA) of NSW – which represents licensed contracting plumbers from across NSW – vehemently denounces the City of Sydney, the City of Parramatta and other Local Government Areas (LGA) that have proposed a ban on gas in new builds,” the Association said in a statement.

“This move demonstrates a clear lack of consideration for its impact on essential services, such as heating, hot water supply, and the functionality of establishments like restaurants and larger buildings.

“The decision made by these councils appears to prioritise environmental concerns without taking practicality into account. While acknowledging the importance of sustainability, it is crucial to balance environmental responsibility and ensure the functionality and efficiency of our city’s infrastructure.”

The latest announcement follows a decision by the City of Sydney earlier this week to consider a move to ban gas connections in new residential premises across the municipality.

At its council meeting on Monday night, the City of Sydney voted to request that the City’s chief executive officer Monica Barone investigate opportunities and challenges associated with amending the City’s planning controls to require all new residential developments within the City to be all-electric.

The proposals would also apply to any non-residential buildings that will not be subject new, ‘Net Zero’ Performance controls which are set to cone into effect in October. This includes schools, hospitals and other non-office public buildings.

The new requirements will not apply to offices, hotels and shopping centres. These buildings are already subject to the ‘Net Zero’ performance controls referred to above and will need to be capable of achieving net zero energy prior to commencing use once the new controls come into effect.

The Council also decided that Lord Mayor Clover Moore will write to NSW Premier Chris Minns to urge development of a plan to transition homes from gas to renewable energy. The plan would be supported by incentives or rebates.

No timeline was given for the proposed ban’s introduction. However, the CEO will be asked to report back to Council as soon as possible.

The latest moves from the City of Sydney follows Victoria’s moves to ban gas connections in new homes from 1 January 2024.

In response to the Victorian ban, NSW Premier Chris Minns ruled out any similar statewide gas bans across his state.

However, several councils have moved toward all-electric buildings with their municipalities.

Parramatta Council is requiring all new developments (residential and non-residential) to be all electric. The Council is considering further changes to require all non-residential buildings to be all electric.

Meanwhile, Waverley Council recently implemented new planning rules to require electric stoves, cooktops and heaters to be installed in new residential developments.

In its decision, Sydney City Council noted several benefits which it saw in moving away from gas in new homes.

First, there are benefits associated with all-electric homes in terms of the City’s decarbonisation objectives.

Second, the Council felt that all-electric homes are cheaper to run.

It noted modelling from the Climate Council in 2022, which indicated that homes in Sydney could save $924 a year on their bills if they switched gas appliances to electric ones.

Finally, all-electric homes avoid health impacts which are associated with use of gas for heating or cooking.

On this score, the Council pointed to a 2018 study in the Medical Journal of Australia, which found that gas cooktops are associated with around 12 per cent of childhood asthma in Australia.

The decision has been welcomed by environment and healthcare advocacy groups but has been slammed by plumbing industry associations and gas industry lobby groups.

Lucy Manne, CEO at 350 Australia – a lobby group which advocates for the elimination of fossil fuels and moves toward 100 percent renewables – said the decision provided further impetus for Australia’s push toward decarbonisation.

“Gas is a potent, fossil fuel that is accelerating the intersecting human and ecological crises caused by a heating planet,” Mann said.

“We need to end the age of fossil fuels now and we can start by eliminating toxic methane gas from our homes, shops and businesses.

“Only developers and gas corporations benefit from keeping our homes and businesses connected to gas.

“We congratulate the City of Sydney for taking bold climate leadership and taking action where the state government is falling behind.”

Meanwhile, Dr Ben Ewald, Senior Lecturer in Epidemiology at the University of Newcastle, said the move away from gas will have significant health benefits.

“The flames of a gas stove or heater release toxic chemicals that cause asthma in susceptible people,” he said.

“Everyone with a gas stove should open a window or turn on an extractor fan every time they light it.

“Not connecting to gas in the first place is a better option, as all uses of indoor gas now have a better electric alternative.”

However, plumbing industry associations and gas industry lobby groups have slammed the decision.

In a statement, Nathaniel Smith, CEO of Master Plumbers Association NSW, said that the decision will have severe practical ramifications for the design and function of new buildings.

“One cannot overlook the severe repercussions this ill-advised ban will impose on the design and functionality of new buildings,” Smith said.

“Gas provides a cost-effective and reliable energy source for heating systems, essential for the comfort and well-being of residents living in these structures. By denying architects and engineers the flexibility to utilise gas infrastructure, these LGAs are limiting their ability to create liveable spaces suitable for the diverse needs of our community.”

“Furthermore, the restaurant industry, already heavily impacted by the ongoing global challenges such as the pandemic caused by Covid-19, will face even greater hurdles due to this ban. Gas-powered stoves and commercial appliances have long been the standard in commercial kitchens due to their superior heat control and efficiency. The Council’s decision will undoubtedly hinder the growth and success of new culinary ventures, stifling innovation and putting additional strain on small businesses.”

“(In addition,) The ban’s disregard for the practicality of delivering hot water and heating to larger buildings is of great concern. Alternative solutions are likely to fall short, whether in terms of cost, reliability, or capability to meet the demands of high-rise structures.

“We implore this group of LGAs to consult with industry experts, engage in constructive dialogue, and consider the ramifications of this policy on the ratepayers they serve.”

Meanwhile, Steve Davies, CEO of the Australian Pipelines and Gas Association, expressed disappointment with the decision.

Davies says the decision was even more surprising in light of Minn’s announcement ruling out a ban on gas connections across the state.

He says the decision will cut off alternative options for decarbonisation such as renewable gas.

“APGA agrees on the importance of achieving net zero as quickly as possible, but removing options to do so is not how we solve the problem,” Davies said.

“If the City of Sydney is truly focused on accelerating the transition by reducing emissions, it should be talking about getting more renewable gas into the system.

“Just recently, the Malabar Biomethane Project, co-funded by Jemena and the Australian Renewable Energy Agency (ARENA), successfully started injecting renewable biomethane into the NSW Gas distribution network.

“Removing access to an operational and scalable source of renewable energy that has zero cost implications for the citizens of Sydney is a step in the wrong direction.”

“We have to think more holistically about the transition to net zero, optimising the assets available to us and using a network of options to move towards a net zero future.

“Removing opportunities to access renewable energy is akin to hobbling all the horses in the race and expecting a fast time on the card at the end.

“Preventing new buildings from connecting to gas now will not lower emissions, will not lower costs and will cut people off from the opportunities of a renewable future.”


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