28 Jul 2023
All-electric kitchens may be essential for net zero targets. But convincing consumers and chefs to make the switch starts with a conversation about health and hip pocket benefits – and the evidence is compelling, says the Global Cooksafe Coalition’s Virginia Jones.
Virginia, who joined the Coalition as the Australian Program Manager in June, has some shocking statistics to share – but three will make you sit up in your seat.
Children who live in a home with a gas stove are 42% more likely to suffer from asthma. Three quarters of methane leaking from gas stovetops occurs when an appliance is not in use. And one of restaurant, owned by Luke Burgess, saved $30,000 a year in cleaning costs when its owners made the switch to all electric cooking.
“There are so many good reasons to have induction and no good reasons to have gas. It outperforms on every level,” Virginia says.
The Coalition, which launched in November 2022, has since amassed an impressive group of partners. Property companies with combined assets of $127 billion have pledged to eliminate gas from their assets, promising that all new kitchens will be electric by 2030 and all existing kitchens retrofitted by 2040.
This commitment comes as the Victorian Government announces a ban on gas connections in new homes from 1 January 2024. All new public buildings, such as schools, hospitals, police stations and government-owned buildings, that are yet to reach a design stage must also be all-electric.
The Coalition chose Sydney’s Icebergs Dining Room and Bar to announce its newest partners, Frasers Property Australia, Cbus Property, Barangaroo’s International Towers and Powerhouse Museum in mid-July. These new partners join foundation partners Lendlease and the GPT Group, as well as foundation member the Green Building Council of Australia.
“We think we will soon be at a point where, if you’re not part of the Coalition, people will wonder why,” Virginia says.
Clearing the air
The emissions generated by gas cooking – which the International Energy Agency estimates amounted to 498 Mt in 2020 – may be the focus of the property industry’s sustainability specialists. But decades of scientific, peer-reviewed research demonstrates that cooking with gas is bad for our health too.
The gas we burn in our homes releases toxic pollutants including nitrogen dioxide, carbon monoxide and formaldehyde. The World Health Organization attributes 3.2 million premature deaths each year to illnesses caused by cooking with gas.
“We can smell the gas and, instinctively, we know it can’t be good for us,” Virginia says. She points to a Stanford University study, released in 2022, which found that 75% of methane leaking from gas stoves occur when the stoves are turned off.
Electric cooktops are the most sophisticated on the market. “They are faster, safer, cooler, more energy efficient and easier to clean,” Virginia says.
Consumer choices are often “based on old conversations” and outdated information. “You can’t judge an electric cooktop today from the one in your grandmother’s house 20 years ago. It’s like judging today’s smart phone on 20-year-old technology.”
Cooking up change
In commercial tenancies, induction cooking isn’t a compromise, but it does require some “tweaks” to the way chefs cook. Speaking at Icebergs, Global Cooksafe Coalition Ambassador Luke Burgess, who has worked for some of the world’s best restaurants, including NOMA and Tetsuya, offered a powerful endorsement of electric technology.
“When I moved to NOMA in 2009, a fully integrated electric kitchen with induction and grill tops was installed and it performed better than anything else I’d ever used… At my own restaurant cleaning time was reduced from 24 minutes for a gas cooktop to just 21 seconds to wipe down an induction cooktop, which saved over $30,000 in wages in cleaning alone in one year,” he said.
Also speaking at the event was Frasers Property Australia’s General Manager of Retail Assets Felicity Armstrong. “We have thousands of apartments in our pipeline, and they will all be electric, and we aren’t getting any pushback from consumers,” she told the audience.
“In the future, there just won’t be any new developments built with gas,” Virginia reflects. “As more partners are willing to say this publicly, and to stand side by side with us, it will become the logical choice.”
Virginia, a former ABC journalist, most recently led the marketing and communications team for Fairtrade Australia & New Zealand and knows how to capture hearts and minds.
“I loved working for Fairtrade because it was about helping businesses, farmers and suppliers to make trade fairer. It's a great model and I really believe in it,” she says.
“But working for the Coalition is an opportunity to tackle a problem that must be addressed at an important moment in time. We want people to have the best information to make the best choices now – and the best choices are electric.”