Oct 06, 2023Clean Energy Future

It’s no show without gas

Gas is a vital part of the net zero future. It’s also a vital part of the energy mix today.

The Prime Minister and the federal Treasurer agree.

Prime Minister Anthony Albanese said in September “Gas will have an important back-up role, a flexible source of peaking generation that can support the grid through low renewables periods”.

The same month, Treasurer Jim Chalmers said “[Gas] is a really important part of our energy mix and it’s a really important part of our economy and it also shows that the Government’s energy plan is working.”

Why? Because gas isn’t just for cooking and hot showers – it is a major part of generating the electricity powering our homes and lives.

Natural gas is increasingly relied upon to offset the closure of coal-fired power stations while backing up weather-dependent renewable energy sources when the sun doesn’t shine or wind doesn’t blow, and at times of peak electricity demand.

Gas has an important role right now, because depending on where you live in Australia, the majority of the electricity you consume today already comes from natural gas.

Power generation

Let’s start at the top. The Northern Territory: it’s Australia’s number one gas user. The NT economy quite literally runs on gas. According to the 2002 Australian Energy Update, 86 per cent of NT electricity is generated by natural gas.

Next on the list is Western Australia, which relies on natural gas for 60 per cent of its power generation. Although renewable energy and larger battery projects are planned, the State Government’s decision to cease coal-fired generation by 2030 makes gas the foremost fuel for the foreseeable future in the west.

And in third place is South Australia, which relies on gas for 28 per cent of its power generation. The rest of SA’s electricity comes from either renewables or the brown coalfields of Victoria.

But it’s not just our electrical appliances that need gas – Australia’s manufacturing sector does too.

Industry and manufacturing

Take just one industry, aluminium production. Australia is the world’s largest exporter of alumina, the mineral used to produce aluminium – the world’s most widely used metal.

Aluminium is used in hundreds of applications: glass, porcelain and paint, cars, buildings and aircraft – not to mention billions of cans each year in Australia alone.

Each year, Australia’s six alumina refineries (four in Western Australian and two in Queensland) use more than twice the energy consumed by the state of Tasmania.

Refining is a 24-hour-a-day, 365-days-a-year job, and gas is the only fuel (other than coal) that can provide certainty of supply.

That’s just one example, but there are others you mightn’t have thought about.

From pulp and paper manufacturing for tissues and toilet paper, creating metals for our neighbourhood fences or to produce fertiliser, process foods or make glass bottles, gas is essential to our economy.

The power of the turbine

How does natural gas support renewables?

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