ACCC forecasts gas supply increase, shortage fears disappear

The ACCC has quelled fears of a summer energy crisis, which has led to Jim Chalmers attacking Peter Dutton.

The ACCC has quelled fears of a summer energy crisis, which has led to Jim Chalmers attacking Peter Dutton. Photo: Getty/TND

The consumer watchdog says there will be a stable gas supply for Australian homes next year and an increase in gas exports, in a report that belies recent fears of shortages.

In the first quarter of next year, gas supply to Australia’s east coast will be 13 per cent higher than last year, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission projects in the interim report of its gas inquiry, released on Wednesday.

In addition to sufficient supply for domestic use all through 2024, first-quarter demand for exported gas will rise by 9 per cent, earning gas producers an extra $2 billion, the ACCC predicts.

The forecasts mark a significant shift from last June, when Victoria and NSW were warned of likely significant shortfalls because producers were not supplying enough gas for domestic consumption as international prices soared.

Chalmers slams Dutton

Treasurer Jim Chalmers said the data proved the effectiveness of the government’s move to cap domestic prices at $12 per gigajoule.

Opposition Leader Peter Dutton opposed the measures and warned they would lead to “bill blowouts and blackouts”.

“The Liberals and Nationals voted against energy relief for families and small businesses in the Parliament, and they said the sky would fall in as [a] result of our price caps and gas code of conduct,” Chalmers said.

“This data collected after the government announced action to limit the worst impacts of gas price increases is more proof they have no idea what they’re talking about.”

Gas exporters also protested against the changes; the value of Australia’s LNG exports surged to $90 billion last year, up more than 80 per cent on the year before.

Regulator warns of gas shortages

Cap takes effect

The $12 price cap started taking effect in July after the government added exemptions for smaller gas producers who agreed to sell gas only for domestic use, or larger producers who agreed to supply the domestic market.

The government’s plan also includes rebates for households (Western Australia has long reserved 15 per cent of its gas for local use keeping a lid on that state’s prices).

“The latest advice from the ACCC shows the gas outlook for 2024 is improving, thanks to the sustained effort of government and industry to ensure there is sufficient gas supply at reasonable prices to meet domestic demand,” Resources Minister Madeleine King said.

The changes will reduce the average consumer’s energy bills by $230 this financial year, or up to $992 (households’ use of gas varies).

The ACCC expects a surplus of 1.4 petajoules (PJ) of gas if all un-contracted gas is exported by LNG producers.

If only long-term contracts and anticipated spot sales are considered, the surplus increases to 19.9 PJ for the quarter.

The report is based on data gathered from February to June 2023.

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