Gas bill increase a possibility

Enbridge Gas Distribution location on Keil Drive in Chatham. (Photo courtesy of Enbridge Gas)

You could be paying around $61 more a year on your natural gas bill starting this spring.

Enbridge Gas has applied to the Ontario Energy Board requesting approval to increase its rates staring on April 1, 2020. According to Enbridge, the reason for the increase is the federal government’s carbon tax that was implemented in April 2019 and is expected to increase annually.

The carbon tax established a pricing program which means that natural gas utilities in Ontario, such as Enbridge, are required to pay a carbon charge for the natural gas that it delivers to its customers. The charge is currently 3.91 cents per cubic metre of natural gas used and is shown as a separate line in customers’ bills.

However, in November 2019, Enbridge Gas filed an application to the Ontario Energy Board (OEB) seeking approval to increase the current federal carbon charge from 3.91 cents per cubic metre to 5.87 cents starting on April 1, 2020, to reflect the government’s 2020 carbon tax increase.

If the increase is approved, Enbridge Gas Spokesperson Andrea Stass said customers in the Union South rate zone (former customers of Union Gas Limited) can expect to pay about $43 more over the next year in additional carbon charges.

“For customers in the southwestern Ontario area, the increase represents about $43 a year which is added to the $86 that people pay [currently]. So in total, it’s a carbon charge, for an average family, of about $129 a year,” said Stass.

In addition, Enbridge Gas is also looking for approval to recover the balances in the related deferral and variance accounts, which would be a charge of around $18 a year.

“We are looking for approval to refund or collect, depending on your situation, the difference between what we expected the federal carbon charge price would be in 2019 and what the actual price was. So for customers in southwestern Ontario, that’s about $18 and it will be collected throughout the course of the year,” Stass explained.

If both items are approved, it would equal an increase of around $61 per year or $5 per month.

Although some customers already saw a slight increase to their bills starting on January 1, Stass said the proposed carbon rate increase is a separate entity and all the money that gets collected goes to the federal government.

“The price change that was implemented on January 1 was part of our annual rate change to reflect the cost to store and distribute natural gas to our customers,” she explained. “We look at that every year. That is separate from this price change.”

Stass said the rate increase has not yet been approved by the OEB. Although she couldn’t provide an exact estimate of when the decision will be made, she said customers will be notified if and when any rate changes occur.

“The timing of it is still a little uncertain. We’ve asked for a decision by the energy board in time to implement the change on April 1. At this point we’re not certain that’s going to happen,” she said. “If we do have a decision from the Ontario Energy Board we will certainly be letting  customers know through the media and also through social media so they can be aware these changes are happening.”

In the meantime, Stass suggests people visit the Enbridge website to get pointers on how to save money on their gas bill as well as look at available incentives.

“People obviously don’t want to spend more for things that they need. We can understand that an additional charge can be difficult for some customers. One of the best ways to manage your energy cost is to reduce the amount of gas that you use,” she said. “We do have a lot of programs and incentives that will help people reduce their energy consumption.”