Alberta consumers face 'unprecedented' utility costs

The cost of electricity in Alberta is going up, driven by a combination of high demand and tight supply. As Ton Vernon explains, it's renewing calls for the provincial government to step in.

The price of power in Alberta has taken another big jump.

“The cost of generating electricity has gone through the roof as a result of the price of natural gas increasing,” said Sophie Simmonds, the director of Anova Energy.

“The actual cost of generating electricity has gone up significantly in the past nine to 12 months.”

The regulated rate has increased by over 150 per cent in the past 18 months, she says.

“It is unprecedented in the market at the moment.”

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In Alberta, customers can choose their electricity service provider and can also choose between a fixed or variable regulated rate option (RRO).

Utility bills are based on power consumption for the billing period, calculated per kilowatt-hour (kWh).

The Alberta Utilities Commission approved the regulated rate option prices for the month of August and they remain at historical highs.

Both Enmax and Epcor have had rates higher than 17 cents/kWh approved — 17.341 cents/kWh and 17.129 cents/kWh respectively. Direct Energy’s regulated rate sits at 16.879 cents/kWh.

Outside Edmonton, the utilities commission shows Epcor’s regulated rate at about 17.345 cents/kWh.

Energy analysts say the rising prices come from a few factors, including high demand on tight supply and the high cost of natural gas.

Experts say the best thing consumers can do is get on a contract.

“Anyone who is looking at their residential electricity, that would be our number one suggestion… fix your power sooner rather than later,” Simmonds said.

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Alberta utility bills expected to remain high throughout 2023

She doesn’t expect to see much relief in the high prices for the next couple of years.

The UCP government is providing $50-per-month rebates directly on bills until the end of the year, a total of $2.3 billion in relief.

Associate minister of natural gas and electricity Dale Nally said the Alberta government “understands the challenges that rising energy costs” present, which is why it also got rid of the provincial fuel tax.

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Nally said he’s concerned federal Liberal policies will push energy and electricity prices even higher.

“Alberta’s government is prioritizing affordability as we look at different options to keep our electricity system reliable while decarbonizing. We are pursuing all avenues — maximizing the efficiency of existing infrastructure, integrating new technologies into our grid and better managing system costs.

“Our commitment to maintaining a competitive energy-only market has also led to more than $13.9 billion in new generation projects since 2019, the vast majority of which are for renewable power.”

The NDP says more can be done and these steps are not enough.

“I think it’s an incredible challenge for Albertans, and it’s a challenge for Albertans at a time when people are facing a lot of other challenges,” said NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley.

“If (consumers) get disconnected, you’re potentially dealing with people who can’t even run a fan,” Ganley said.

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Ganley says the province should consider a price cap — like the NDP government had in place — and pass legislation protecting Albertans from being cut off if they’re late on their bill.

“We have offered to come back to the house, we have offered to work on policies, we worked on draft legislation to prevent disconnections that they didn’t even want to look at.”

© 2022 Global News, a division of Corus Entertainment Inc.

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