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Gas or Electricity, which is Cheaper? An Econometric Approach with Application to Australian Expenditure Data

The question of whether it is cheaper for households to use electricity or gas for space heating, water heating and cooking, generates much debate in Australia. Generally, gas appliances are technically less efficient than electrical appliances, but on a per MJ basis, gas is cheaper than electricity. The trade-off between these two factors has typically been assessed using an engineering approach which ignores the fact that gas and electric appliances might be used in different ways in the home and that there may be price effects. This paper utilises an alternative perspective based on econometric methods. We analyse the actual energy expenditures of a large sample of Australian households and estimate the expenditure on the main end-uses for households using different fuel types. We find that households using electricity for main heating spend considerably less than households using gas. For cooking, households using gas generally spend less, while for water heating the results are mixed. We discuss several possible interpretations of these results in terms of consumer preferences and running costs.

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Energy Specializations: Natural Gas – Markets and Prices; Electricity – Markets and Prices ; Electricity – Policy and Regulation

JEL Codes:
L13 - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
D42 - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design: Monopoly
E60 - Macroeconomic Policy, Macroeconomic Aspects of Public Finance, and General Outlook: General

Keywords: natural gas, electricity, households, expenditures, appliances, econometrics, space heating, water heating, Australia

DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol17-No4-2

Published in Volume17, Number 4 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.