SYDNEY, March 16 (Reuters) - The Australian government will spend up to A$2 billion ($1.54 billion) to expand the output of a hydroelectric power scheme by up to 50 percent to help solve a power crisis, the government said on Thursday.
Australia is on track to become the world's largest exporter of liquified natural gas (LNG), yet its energy market operator has warned of a domestic gas crunch from 2019 that could trigger industry supply cuts and broad power outages.
The expansion of the Snowy Mountains Hydroelectric scheme could power the equivalent of 500,000 homes and meet demand in peak periods across the eastern states, Energy Minister Josh Frydenberg told the Australian Broadcasting Corp. on Thursday.
"The cost will run into the billions of dollars but the Prime Minister has made very clear that we will make all steps necessary to ensure energy security," Frydenberg said.
South Australia suffered a state-wide blackout last September during a storm left homes and businesses in the dark for up to eight hours and paralysed some industries for up to two weeks.
Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull is due to visit Snowy Hydro on Thursday morning, his office said. ($1 = 1.2982 Australian dollars) (Reporting by Jamie Freed)