Victoria faces a looming winter gas shortage, which could plunge the national electricity market into a fresh power crisis, Australia’s energy regulator has warned.
The Iona gas storage facility in Port Campbell, in Victoria’s south-west, has dropped to record low supply-levels due to high demand amid the state’s price cap.
In an industry letter issued on Monday, the Australian Energy Market Operator warned of the risk of curtailment during peak demand.
Lochard Energy, which owns Iona, said “unplanned coal fired generation outages” and cold weather had increased demand.
“It is the case that gas supply and winter peaking capacity are becoming increasingly tighter on the east coast,” Lochard said in a statement.
“This year, unplanned coal fired generation outages and especially cold winter weather have led to Iona customers starting to withdraw gas from storage earlier and in larger quantities than usual.”
Reports suggest the AEMO may intervene to limit the amount of gas being taken from the facility.
The state’s price cap remains at $40 a gigajoule, as demand for gas continues to soar globally due to various factors, including the war in Ukraine.
The latest warning follows AEMO temporarily halt to the east-coast market amid a risk of blackouts.
State Opposition Leader Matthew Guy said the imminent gas shortage was unacceptable.
“There are Victorians making a decision, either heating or eating,” Mr Guy said.
“That shouldn’t be a choice that people are forced to make but it is when the Labor government bans exploration.
“Here’s the alternative – I’ll allow it, I’ll explore it, I’ll open it up so that we’ve got more gas reserves so people can afford to heat their home.”
While acknowledging the energy network was under pressure, Deputy Premier Jacinta Allan said Victoria was a net gas exporter and AEMO’s latest advice was the state had enough supply to met its needs.
“The Energy Minister will continue to work closely with AEMO and our gas operators to ensure supply is adequate for Victoria,” she said.