Skip to main content

Calgarians expected to dig deeper into their pockets during deep freeze conditions

Share

A decrease in temperatures is likely leading to an increase in utility and heating bills as Calgarians crank up their thermostats in preparation for another cold snap.

Energy analysts say those using a natural gas-powered furnace won’t see their rates fall like they did to past lows seen in recent years and some consumers could see their bills spike higher.

The most vulnerable are consumers who are not on fixed rate contracts, who will see their energy rates rise as consumption rises.

“If you think about doubling the cost of the energy component, that's the equivalent of about a 30 per cent increase on your overall bill,” said Jackie Forrest, executive director of the ARC Research Institute in Calgary.

Forrest notes that a number of factors are contributing to higher heating bills including carbon taxes and distribution costs depending on what part of the country consumers live.

“The other big factor in this North American integrated gas market is that a lot more exports of gas are leaving out of the U.S. and that is lifting prices all over North America,” she said. 

“Because as there's been a real pull on gas to Europe, who needs the gas, that means there's less gas in North America and all the things the same, so you know, we’re going to see higher prices.”

AFFORDABILITY ACTION PLAN

The province has recognized the concerns of rising prices and has since implemented its Affordability Action Plan.

Rebates will protect Albertans from high heating costs if monthly rates go above $6.50/gigajoule. Over 1.9 million homes, farms and businesses will receive rebates to cover high electricity costs.

With demand for energy increasing, Alberta’s electrical grid is also expected to see higher usage, which was the case Tuesday afternoon when the Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) issued a grid alert.

The alert was issued because of a lack of wind across the province to generate power as well as several major power generating units that were experiencing mechanical difficulties.

AESO communications director Leif Sollid said grid usage is at its highest in the winter months from the hours of 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., but there are some tips for Albertans to conserve energy and save money in the process.

“During that (daily) window, small things can make a big difference if Albertans do it individually and collectively. Things like not running your dishwasher, not running your washer and dryer, even things like putting your dinner in the microwave if that's possible instead of turning on your oven,” said Sollid.

“All of those things can help drive down demand. With your vehicle for example as well, if it's on a block heater, put it on a timer so that it doesn't start to draw power until later in the evening or the early morning hours and that will save you money too.”

GET FURNACE SERVICED: HVAC EXPERTS

HVAC and heating experts also remind Calgarians to regularly check that their furnace is working properly.

Derek Belzile, vice-president of JPS Furnace and Air Conditioning, said it’s important to get a furnace serviced if it requires maintenance before an issue comes up during a deep freeze.

“One of the first things that a homeowner should do is make sure that the furnace filter is clean, that it's been replaced and that the air is flowing properly through their furnace,” he said.

“That's highly recommended to do the preventative maintenance every year on your system, your AC and your furnaces. Having that done on a regular basis is critical to the performance and the efficiency and it runs properly.”

It’s even more important to get a furnace serviced now than in previous years because of supply chain issues affecting the delivery of parts that may be needed for repairs.

Rajbir Bhatti,, chair of the Supply Chain Management Program at Mount Royal University,  said demand for HVAC supplies has increased, but production has not.

He noted that one of the biggest challenges is a lack of semiconductor chips and about 70 per cent of the world’s supply comes from Taiwan.

“When the capacity was booked in Taiwan for the electronic industry, the automobile sector faced challenges, but now as production is ramped up to closer levels, the first batches on priority go to the automobile sector,” he said.

“So there are 169 other sectors that are not getting semiconductors that they deserve, that they want, and that they need to survive. So it is kind of free for all out there."

CTVNews.ca Top Stories

How to avoid the trap of becoming 'house poor'

The journey to home ownership can be exciting, but personal finance columnist Christopher Liew warns about the trappings of becoming 'house poor' -- where an overwhelming portion of your income is devoured by housing costs. Liew offers some practical strategies to maintain better financial health while owning a home.

Stay Connected