15 Mar 2017

NZ unable to help Australia with latest energy crisis

4:24 pm on 15 March 2017

Australia's "worst fears are being realised" when it comes to gas supply, and New Zealand is unlikely to be able to help out with the latest power crisis across the Tasman.

Offshore natural gas, oil

Photo: 123RF

The scarcity of available gas has seen prices jump up to four times above historical levels.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission says the gas market is in crisis with residents most likely to bear the costs.

Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull summoned the big energy companies to Canberra today to urge them to supply more gas locally.

But the chief regulator for the downstream gas industry here, Steve Bielby, said New Zealand was not in a position to help its Tasman neighbour.

"We won't be able to do so in the short term, for the simple reason that New Zealand's gas industry is islanded from the rest of the world," he said.

"We haven't developed an import export capability.

"Our gas industry simply balances our New Zealand market. There is a possibility [of exports] for the future but that is some years away."

Australia's power woes caused blackouts in 40,000 homes in South Australia last month, as heavy use of air conditioners in 40 degree heat overwhelmed the system.

Last September, almost the entire state was blacked out by a cascading series of shutdowns, which started when storms felled power pylons.

In response, the South Australian state government has announced a $600 million energy package to boost self sufficiency.

In a speech at a gas conference, ACCC chairman Rod Sims said there were three main factors affecting the Australian east coast's gas supply: the introduction of LNG exports which tripled the demand for gas, oil prices falling faster than forecast, and regulatory uncertainty that has significantly limited or delayed gas supply.

"The outlook for gas supply is now even worse than it was a year ago, indeed, our worst fears are being realised," Mr Sims said.

"At best, how can these companies invest and plan such high and uncertain gas prices and with considerable supply uncertainty. At worst, plants will close and jobs will be lost purely as a result of the current gas crisis."

- RNZ / ABC

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