Alberta: 50 per cent hike in natural gasgreenspun.com : LUSENET : Grassroots Information Coordination Center (GICC) : One Thread
Board approves gas price hike
Lower rates possible by fall
Alberta's energy watchdog has given ATCO Gas the green light to charge consumers about 50 per cent more for natural gas this year -- approving an unprecedented rate hike initially introduced last month.
However, ATCO said customers could see lower rates as early as September if current prices on the wholesale gas market remain stable.
After holding hearings around the province last month, the Alberta Energy and Utilities Board decided Wednesday ATCO can charge southern Alberta consumers $9.814 per gigajoule (a standard heating unit) for gas, up from $6.496. ATCO, which passes along its gas costs to consumers and doesn't profit from the rate hike, said the increase was necessary due to spiralling energy prices. Spot prices for Alberta gas on the wholesale market have more than doubled in the past year but have fallen after peaking in December.
"ATCO Gas has no control over the North American market but we currently forecast the strong possibility of a rate decrease for customers this year," company vice-president Jerome Engler said in a statement.
With the Alberta government's natural gas rebates applied to bills, the typical Calgary residential customer using 150 gigajoules annually is paying $111 per month for gas between January and April.
The EUB also said ATCO can charge an annualized rate to residential users and smaller commercial consumers, instead of setting different rates for the winter and summer seasons.
The new payment plan will see ATCO's deficit on gas costs repaid gradually over the next year to avoid an even sharper hike in bills for residents.
Larger business consumers will still see their rates adjusted in the summer and winter, and they will be required to repay their winter gas costs by April 30.
During the EUB hearings, the City of Calgary argued consumers should be given their choice of repayment option.
The Consumers Coalition of Alberta supports the spreading of gas costs over longer periods of time and applauded the EUB's decision.
"Deregulation time and again does not protect or look out for the smallest consumers," said spokesman Jim Wachowich.
"Householders in particular are very upset at the high parts of the price cycle. It will allow people to deal with the really high bills they've got over a long period of time."
-- Martin Thompson (email@example.com), March 01, 2001