New building standards must recognise that gas is high risk

Gas stoves leak dangerous gases while not in use. Photo: PublicDomainPictures/Pixabay

All new homes and renovations over $50,000 in New South Wales must meet new Building and Sustainability Index (BASIX) sustainability standards. The standards of energy and water use and the thermal performance of a development are currently being reviewed.

The new higher BASIX standards take into account electricity being more environmentally efficient: “The NSW electricity grid has, over time, become greener as we produce more electricity from renewable energy sources. We plan to recognise this in the proposed new energy standards by updating the greenhouse emissions factor when we calculate the energy consumption.”

A home that includes “all electric” appliances meets proposed higher BASIX requirements, because it can be powered by renewable energy, greatly lowering emissions and energy costs. A home that includes electric and gas appliances meets the proposed higher BASIX standards only if solar panels are installed.

Gas is a fossil fuel. Methane emissions are 80% more polluting than carbon dioxide for the first 20 years after release into the atmosphere. Leaks of methane occur all along the gas supply chain.

A world-first aerial survey of Queensland’s main coal seam gas region last year found methane emissions considerably higher than previous reports.

According to the Climate Council, unconventional gas development exposes communities to unnecessary health risks, and burning gas at home for cooking and heating poses respiratory risks to health, especially to children. 

Recent research from the United States into methane and nitrous oxide emissions from gas stoves, cook-tops and ovens in residential homes revealed methane leaking from gas stove tops while not in use is releasing the greenhouse-gas equivalent of hundreds of thousands of cars.

The assessment of the emissions from gas, included in the current BASIX certificate reviewed 10 years ago, is now generally accepted as incorrect. The overall pollution by gas is far greater and therefore the rating for gas under the new BASIX should be amended to reflect this.

The NSW government has a duty of care. The known health impacts from gas in the home are well documented and should not be ignored. The scientifically-based measurement of emissions from gas are impacting climate change, which we are all experiencing. 

Locking people into using dirty, high-priced gas for decades is negligent when we know the harm it causes and we have abundant cheaper alternatives.

Sydney Knitting Nannas and Friends is calling for: No new gas connections to residential dwellings; and a change to the status of gas from a low- to a high-emissions energy.

[Submissions are due by February 28. Kathy McKenzie is part of Sydney Knitting Nannas and Friends.]