Australia

Gas customers urged not to panic despite shortfall risk

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Anthony Albanese has denied the government raised a false hope of falling energy bills, as gas customers are warned to brace for possible shortfalls in the coming winter.

The Australian Energy Market Operator warned of risks to gas supply in eastern states unless more production is set aside specifically for domestic use.

While its most recent report said customer demand would be met in central and eastern Australia, supply risks in areas such as Victoria remained.

The prime minister said there was pressure on household energy bills, but that relief action was being carried out.

“People do understand that Australia isn’t immune from the impact of the war that has gone on in Ukraine. What we have done is intervene, we haven’t sat back and do nothing about it,” Mr Albanese told ABC Radio on Friday.

“We’ve seen wholesale prices essentially be half of what they would have been and what was predicted at the time of the October budget.

“That intervention has been successful, but we recognise that people (are) doing it tough and that it is having an impact, but we’re being straight with people as well.”

The federal government struck a deal with state and territory governments at the end of last year to cap the price of coal and gas, with further relief measures to be rolled out in jurisdictions to lower energy bills.

The prime minister said modelling carried out showing a drop in energy bills was conducted before the Russian invasion of Ukraine and related energy cost hikes.

“We’re not immune from that, that has had an impact here as it has right around the world,” he said.

Despite the concern of possible energy shortfalls, market operator chief executive Daniel Westerman said the assessment of the gas market was not scaremongering for energy users.

“The point of this report is not to make consumers worry or industry worry. Frankly, it’s about providing a fact base,” he said.

“The supply is declining at a faster rate than demand. Those shortfalls from 2027 onwards will continue to widen as we go into the future.

“That is why we are calling for investment in new sources of supply to overcome those annual shortfalls from 2027 onwards.”

News of the potential shortfall coincides with the energy regulator putting forward a more than 25 per cent rise in power prices for the next financial year.

A decision on the increase, forecast to be as much as $1738 a year more, is set to be made in May.

A parliamentary committee will hear on Friday from WA-based groups on how the country can make a renewable energy transition successfully.

The committee will also hear from the WA state government as well as mining company Fortescue’s future industries division.

– AAP



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