Homes could run out of gas tomorrow as another shortage hits, with the energy market operator activating emergency measures.

Victoria’s underground gas storage plant, called Iona, plunged to record lows and Australia’s Energy Market Operator (AEMO) was forced to put in place its gas supply guarantee scheme emergency.

Homes could run out of gas between 5.30pm and 7pm on Wednesday, 9 News reports, potentially leaving Australians without heating and with cold showers. These are the peak times for energy consumption.

This is the second time the AEMO has had to issue such a warning in a matter of weeks.

“AEMO has activated the Gas Supply Guarantee Facility to secure additional gas supplies from Queensland-based gas producers to support gas-fired power generation in the national electricity market,” said AEMO said in a statement.

“AEMO will continue to work with the parties to understand the availability of gas supply. The difficult production conditions experienced since the beginning of June continue in the national electricity market.

“This has resulted in a greater reliance on gas-fired power generation and a larger than expected inventory reduction at the Iona gas storage facility in Victoria.”

The official threat to the security of the system will remain in place until the end of September, or until gas supply increases at Iona.

The AEMO has asked Queensland gas exporters to direct more supplies south.

Three Queensland exporters – Santos’ GLNG, Shell’s QCLNG and Origin Energy’s Australia Pacific LNG – have agreed to do so, the FRG reported.

The shortages are caused by high demand for gas as temperatures drop, as well as outages at coal-fired power plants, which require more gas to create electricity.

Sydneysiders have been urged to reduce their energy use on some evenings in June as supplies dwindle.

Energy Minister Matt Kean had to call on people not to use their dishwashers in the early evening. Such a warning was not put in place this time.

On this occasion, the AEMO took the extraordinary decision to suspend the electricity market throughout the country in order to avoid massive blackouts.

The drastic intervention meant that the AEMO was temporarily in charge of directing supplies from energy suppliers to the electricity grid.

AEMO said it has taken an unprecedented step amid soaring electricity costs “as it has become impossible to continue operating the spot market while ensuring a safe and reliable supply of electricity to consumers” .