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Ginninderry to be first Canberra suburb without natural gas

Ginninderry will become the first Canberra suburb without natural gas, in a trial that could determine if other new developments will also be solely powered by electricity.

Construction will begin on the first stage of the 11,500-home precinct in West Belconnen in 2020, the same year the ACT will become fully powered by renewable energy.

Then, natural gas will become the ACT's second largest generator of greenhouse gases, accounting for 21 per cent of emissions, ACT Climate Change Minister Shane Rattenbury said.

"Gas is going to be a significant source of emissions we're going to need to tackle here in the ACT," Mr Rattenbury said.

Installing gas mains, poles and wires, water and telecommunications infrastructure in new suburbs is mandatory in the ACT.

But thanks to a variation to the Territory Plan - due to be released shortly, according to Planning Minister Mick Gentleman - the gas requirement will be waived for the first 350 homes in Ginninderry.

The homes will become part of a microgrid, powered by a solar panels and battery storage.

However the homes will still be connected to the main Evoenergy grid that powers the rest of Canberra.

Mr Rattenbury said the trial would monitor the effect of this electricity-only suburb on the main grid, as well as any cost blowouts for residents.

Housing Minister Yvette Berry said the results would determine how future developments were powered.

As natural gas prices rise, Mr Rattenbury said usage was falling across Canberra.

"Our most recent report released by the Commonwealth shows between 2010 and 2017, the rate of household gas consumption in the ACT reduced in the order of 20 per cent so Canberrans are already making choices and moving towards electric sources of heating," he said/

However the proponents of the project face an uphill battle to convince Canberrans electricity is better.

A telephone survey of 301 people showed 59 per cent of gas users willing to consider buying in a suburb with no gas.

However 86 per cent of non-gas users said they would consider it.

A focus group of builders showed most believed no gas would impose a barrier - albeit minimal - to sales.

However most said it would be no or minimal hassle to build homes without mains gas connections and nearly all believed they'd be able to sell the benefits of an all-electric home to buyers.

Ginninderry project manager David Maxwell said while nearby settlements like Murrumbateman aren't hooked up to the gas network, Canberrans were attached to it.

"I think people enjoy cooking with gas and the theatre that goes with it, but in fact induction provides you with a better and a quicker outcome from a cooking point of view," Mr Maxwell said.

"A lot of people in Canberra say 'well I couldn't deal without gas' but that's because they own a 1970 or 1980 Canberra house which is a zero star. What you've got to remember is all the houses [in Ginninderry] will be six-star rating."

However Ginninderry's sustainability manager Jessica Stewart said gas no longer stacked up, particularly in a suburb where solar panels were mandatory.

As a former energy auditor, she used to tell people to trade in their power-hungry electric heaters for gas.

Now, she said it's become "environmentally friendly to go back to electricity".

"We did both the environmental analysis and also the financial analysis and when you've got a source of electrical energy on your roof, solar, and the solar prices are going down it just doesn't stack up financially to also have gas," Ms Stewart said.

"The thing you use gas for, cooking, heating and cooling, and then hot water, there are all electric solutions to those that are both more efficient and cheaper."

SOURCE: Sydney Morning Herald

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