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Gas supply shortages in Australia looming

Australian energy regulators say they're worried about possible gas supply shortages as of next year, with electricity blackouts likely to haunt the nation. Politicians have warned the problem is homemade.

The Australian Energy Market Operator (AEMO) said Thursday a projected decline in gas production could result in a shortfall of gas-powered electricity generation impacting New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia.

The country's gas producers had forecast annual production to decline by roughly 20 percent between 2017 and 2021. AEMO's projection model showed electricity supply shortfalls of at least 80 gigawatt hours in 2018/19, "if there was no new development to support more gas-powered electricity generation."

"If we use gas for electricity, the potential for shortfalls is in the domestic and the industrial supply," AEMO Chief Operating Officer Mike Cleary told local broadcaster ABC. "If we use it in industrial and domestic fields, the shortfalls will be in electricity."

'Multinationals to blame'

Cleary emphasized that strategic national planning of gas development had never been more critical, adding that in the short term energy supply shortages could be mitigated by an increase in coal-fired generation and renewable energy output.

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It was understood that at the same time exporters needed to redirect some of their gas to the domestic market.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said AEMO's findings were "very concerning" and called for a raft of changes in the market to fix the issue.

He laid the blame squarely on state governments for blocking onshore gas resource exploration and development as regional authorities pursued a shift to more renewable energy output to meet the growing demand.

Victoria's Energy Minister Lily D'Ambrosio told reporters that multinational companies were shipping too much Australian gas to global markets, while the country had more than ample gas to meet all its domestic needs.

"Multinationals are making a killing on digging up Australia's gas and selling it on the global market, leaving domestic consumers with higher gas and electricity prices."

hg/mm (Reuters, dpa)

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