Alberta Home Heating Costs to Soar in '06
The cost of heating your home in January is set rise sharply, with Direct Energy getting approval for rate increases of between 60 per cent and 80 per cent across the province.
The bump means an average customer in southern Alberta will pay another $100 next month, while northern customers will see an average increase of about $60.
The rates will increase to $15.60 a gigajoule in the south and $15.04 a gigajoule in the north. Direct Energy says the average home uses 23 gigajoules in January.
Bob Curran, spokesman for the Energy and Utilities Board, said the price increase reflects current market value.
"We don't really have the power even to deny a huge rate increase, because the market is driving those prices," he said. "So we're price takers as much as anyone else in this process."
Direct Energy spokeswoman Lisa Dornan says consumers only pay for the actual cost of the gas; there is no mark up.
She blames cold weather in parts of the mid-western U.S. and the eastern seaboard for increasing demand for the resource, forcing prices up.
Demand is still up from the aftermath of hurricane Katrina, Dornan added. And the company is recovering costs from December, when prices began to climb.
"The market prices were indeed higher than what had been forecast for the month of December and so Direct Energy actually recovered less money than what it paid to acquire the supply for Albertans," she said. "So part of the increase this month takes into account that."
Liberal energy critic Hugh MacDonald says he's already getting calls from angry homeowners. Any price for natural gas above $5.50 a gigajoule triggers the provincial rebate program, with the amount depending on the actual price.
For rates above $12, a flat rebate of $3.50 a gigajoule kicks in, plus each cent over $12, is matched by the province.