Alberta natural gas rebate delayed past October as prices drop

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The Government of Alberta’s natural gas rebate program will not be triggered in October as the regulated price drops from summer highs.

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The refund was first promised in the February budget to cover the period from October 1 to March 31, but only if the price of natural gas exceeds $6.50 per gigajoule. With the highest rate estimated at $5.63 per gigajoule next month, it won’t be triggered until at least November.

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Prices in the province in the summer, a season when demand is generally lower, have been above $6.50 per gigajoule since May, reaching over $9 per gigajoule in July.

Associate Minister for Natural Gas and Electricity Dale Nally said in a statement on Monday that if natural gas prices rise, the rebate program will be ready.

“We are protecting Albertans, including those with competitively priced contracts, from the possibility of extraordinary price increases on their winter heating bills,” he said.

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It all depends on the regulated default rates, which are approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission and are set for the entire month.

If any of the default monthly natural gas rates from ATCO Gas, through Direct Energy Regulated Services or Apex Utilities, exceed $6.50 per gigajoule for November, eligible consumers will receive rebates for that month covering the difference between $6.50 and the highest regulated rate, for each gigajoule used.

In this case, Albertans who are connected to the system under a regulated or competitive plan and who use less than 2,500 gigajoules of natural gas each year will automatically see the rebate on their utility bill, under a separate line “GOA Utility Commodity Rebate « .

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Content of the article specialist and CEO Joel MacDonald said the way the program is structured, it applies to anyone connected to the system, so Albertans don’t need to switch contracts or supplier to take advantage if prices exceed $6.50.

« It’s much fairer than the old price caps, and in this case Albertans don’t have to do anything, » he said, adding that the rebate doesn’t work as a cap. He noted that some customers who are with a competing retailer on a variable plan that might pay $8 a gigajoule won’t see the discount because it’s based on the regulated benchmark.

Similarly, customers who have a lower fixed rate package could potentially see a discount greater than what they actually pay for natural gas, depending on the level of the regulated price.

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Assuming a $4 per gigajoule contract, it would need to exceed $10.50 per gigajoule before the rebate credit exceeds the energy usage charge.

Historically, prices in Alberta have been much higher than the October monthly default rate, often topping $6.50 in the 2000s, before hitting a low of 55 cents per gigajoule in June 2019.

« For your average consumer, less is always better, but when (you) are trying to protect Albertans, what (you) are trying to do is make sure they don’t have to pay bills catastrophic natural gas that they simply cannot afford. said MacDonald, adding that Alberta prices are depressed compared to other parts of North America.

Albertans who are not connected to the natural gas distribution network, but who use kerosene, propane, fuel oil or natural gas for heating, will be able to apply directly to the government with their receipts dating back to April for reimbursement. . This is a small proportion of the approximately 1.6 million people who could be eligible.

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Alex Puddifant, a spokesman for Nally’s office, said the number is difficult to track but should be below 25,000.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley told an independent news conference on Tuesday that the reimbursement program has always been a « drop in the bucket » when it comes to the kind of support Albertans need.

Notley pointed to the persistence of high prices for things like groceries, electricity and the UCP government’s announcement last week that as world oil prices fall it would partially reinstate the oil tax. gasoline, at 4.5 cents per litre, starting in October.

« What this shows me is that we have a government that literally doesn’t talk to ordinary families about what it’s like to sit around the kitchen table at the end of each month and figure out how they will pay all the bills. , » she says.

The UCP government has promised six electricity rebates of $50 a month which will be applied directly to around 1.9 million electricity bills through December.

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