St Kilda Pier is one of Victoria’s big builds and is taking plumbers to depths not usually required.
There is significant policy momentum in Australia to reduce reliance on fossil fuels for energy production, with most States and Territories committing to emission-reduction targets.
Victoria, for example, has set ambitious targets to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 28 to 33 per cent by 2025 and 45 to 50 per cent by 2030 and to do so, has made a policy decision to transition away from natural gas.
This is a big challenge as the Victorian economy is extremely gas reliant including for the generation of our electrical power. With over two million domestic gas connections state-wide and hundreds more commercial and industrial users, the scale of the planned transition is enormous, and plumbers and gasfitters will be the key to making the transition happen successfully.
In late July, the Victorian Government changed the trajectory of the gas transition roadmap by announcing a ban on all gas connections in new domestic builds from 1 January 2024. The announcement was made without any consultation with industry, is short on detail and has sent shockwaves across our industry. Master Plumbers has expressed its concerns widely and we have slammed in the media both the decision and the way it was announced.
The plumbing industry is at the forefront of the clean-energy transition to a low-carbon economy and is already developing further skills, infrastructure and technology to support it, including development of 100% carbon-neutral hydrogen and bio-gas energy sources for use in the existing distribution network.
Many of our members are deeply invested in the latest gas and heat pump technology and this is not about choosing one or the other - it is about fit-for-purpose energy. And it’s also about holding government to account for decisions made without engaging the very industry it is expecting to deliver on its promises.
The potential for gas to play a role in our low-carbon economy should not be ignored. Victoria has in place some of the most extensive and well- maintained pipeline infrastructure in the world. Government must recognise the potential value of the State’s gas networks to distribute fuels like green hydrogen, while considering ways to retain the connections and distribution architecture that will help keep Victoria’s sustainable energy options open for consumers, ensure we are not reliant on only one energy source or industry for our power and maintain competition in the energy market.
In Victoria, we have over 20,000 licensed and registered gasfitters and ultimately, including hydrogen as part of Victoria’s energy mix would preserve the skills of those already in the industry, while opening the door for thousands of highly skilled, long term and low carbon jobs. The promise of only $1 million in new funding to assist the entire construction industry to deliver what the Government has promised in this announcement is completely unrealistic.
Plumbing businesses around Australia are the trusted advisors to consumers and building managers in making informed decisions in homes, workplaces and public spaces about energy choices. What we need is for governments around Australia to be open to working with us to pave a practical and sustainable path to a low carbon economy.
President, Master Plumbers and Mechanical Services
Association of Australia