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High utility rates and cold weather are costing Calgarians

Some Calgarians may have a costly surprise in their mailboxes this month, as the cost of utilities have spiked.

Specifically, some Enmax customers seen their utility bill rise nearly 50 per cent in the last several months.

“My most recent bill was [around] $550,” said Calgary resident, Amie Howes.

Her average bill is around $400 during winter months, and $350 during the summer.

“Don’t get me wrong, it’s winter so it’s expected to go up a little bit. You get a week or two where it’s extremely cold so your house is trying to keep up,” she said.

“But I mean, especially in the last month or so, there’s no reason it should be another 40 per cent higher on top of that.”

Howes is currently on a floating electricity and natural gas rate offered by Enmax.

This means that the rate is subject to change throughout the year based on supply and demand. Typically resulting in higher prices during winter months and lower during the summer.

February cold snap to blame?

According an Enmax spokesperson, the current high prices that many people are seeing are actually reflections of usage from February.

At that time, the city experienced a weeklong cold snap due to a polar vortex. There was no price hike as people suspect, they said.

According to data on Enmax’s website, the floating rate for natural gas hit a February price of $4 per gigajoule, compared to the $1.80 the same time last year.

Information on the Enmax website said there were other factors in the increased rates, aside from seasonal changes. Primarily, it was the removal of the Alberta electricity price cap, as well as the federal carbon tax.

The former being a point of interest in a recent NDP press event that took place in Calgary.

Rachel Notley called upon the UCP government to, among other things, reinstate the energy rate cap and provide direct consumer relief for Albertans affected by the pandemic. In 2019, the Regulated Rate Option was removed.

According to Office of the Utilities Consumer Advocate,average electricity prices have exceeded that previous cap (6.8 cents per kWh) in January, February and March of this year. The highest price was reported in February by EPCOR, which charged an average of 8.95 cents per kilowatt hour. 

“There’s a compounding effect here and it’s hammering household budgets,” said Notley.

“Many Albertans have to use more natural gas and electricity if they work from home or spend more time at home to help protect their communities from the spread of COVID. Couple that with soaring prices for natural gas and electricity and you’re seeing massive bills and no relief for families.”

The consumer relief program is modelled after the similar program that is being offered by the government of Ontario.