Gas producers AGL and Origin Energy are each seeking a retail price increase of approximately 20 per cent in the coming 12 months, which they blame on the massive new gas export facility in Queensland.
And there are further planned price hikes on the way.
Gas marketers have been touting a ‘shortage’ of gas in NSW for some time as their rationale for needing to tap CSG resources but they have been forced to admit that the so-called shortage has been caused by the opening up of the Gladstone gas terminal, putting Australian gas prices on a par with the rest of the world for the first time.
According to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART), ‘retailers have proposed significant increases in regulated retail gas prices. These are largely based on rising wholesale gas commodity costs, as the development of the LNG export market in Queensland increasingly links domestic gas prices to international prices’.
The proposed increase would see the average annual gas bill rise by $182/year in Sydney and up to $239/year elsewhere in the state.
Lock The Gate Alliance (LTG) has used the announcement to again call on the NSW Resources Minister, Anthony Roberts, to pull back from state government support for CSG mining in the state, saying ‘the greatest threat to gas prices in NSW is the CSG export industry itself’.
Lock the Gate national coordinator, Phil Laird described the export of coal seam gas as ‘a lose-lose prospect’.
‘Not only are farming communities in being told they must pay the price of greedy gas companies wanting to export Australia’s precious natural resources, but now we’ve had confirmation that ordinary NSW households are also being asked to foot the bill for the gas export industry,’ he said.
We’re threatening our water supply, digging up forests, threatening farmland, and for what? For gas price hikes?’ he added.
As gas exploration is causes increasing conflict with farmers around the state, LTG says it is time for the government to back farmers’ rights to say no to gas mining on important farmland and to protect the water resources that sustain rural communities.
The NSW government is currently proposing changes to the Petroleum (Onshore) Act that would weaken protection for landholders in dealing with gas companies.
‘The fact is that opening up NSW for CSG drilling will not only lead to massive price hikes in domestic gas but will also harm our best food-producing land and precious water supplies.
‘We’re calling on minister Roberts to meet with farmers as a matter of urgency to discuss the many options available to protect farmland and water resources from CSG and deliver NSW energy needs from other sources,’ Mr Laird said.
The Nature Conservation Council of NSW has supported LTG’s concerns.
Its campaigns director Kate Smolski said a key industry figure had already admitted there was no ‘gas shortage’.
‘Senior gas industry executive Ian Little just last month publicly acknowledged there was no looming gas shortage in NSW,’ she said.
‘Mr Little’s comments flatly contradict assertions by Minister Roberts and former minister Chris Hartcher, which we believe have been part of a carefully calculated campaign to promote expansion of the CSG industry in New South Wales at any cost,’ Ms Smolski added.
‘Many in the gas industry would like us to believe that public opposition to coal seam gas is the reason for the impending price increases.
‘The real issue is that permitting widespread development of coal seam gas fields will put our water resources, productive farmland and wildlife habitat at serious risk, but do nothing to contain gas prices for NSW consumers,’ she said.
An IPART decision on the price hikes is due in June. The tribunal is accepting public submissions, which can be made here.