FortisBC hikes gas rates

FortisBC natural gas customers will have to brace for more than a cold winter this year.

Users of FortisBC natural gas will see a higher utility bill effective Oct. 1.

Users of FortisBC natural gas will see a higher utility bill effective Oct. 1.

FortisBC natural gas customers will have to brace for more than a cold winter this year.

The company announced on Monday that the BC Utilities Commission greenlighted an 80 per cent increase in the cost of gas rate, meaning the cost of gas will change from $1.14 per GJ to $2.05 per GJ beginning Oct. 1.

So what does that mean for 5,500 homes and properties in the Trail area?

About $82 annually for residential customers, based on the average use of 90 GJ per year, according to FortisBC.

“These changes will reflect an increase of approximately $7 a month on the majority of our residential customers’ natural gas bills, reflecting a 12 per cent increase to customers’ overall bill,” explained Amy Bunton, FortisBC corporate communications advisor.

The same change is impacting households in the Lower Mainland, Vancouver Island, Whistler, Fraser Valley, Interior, North and the Kootenays.

Though higher rates mean heftier bills for all natural gas users, there is one local sector who may be hit particularly hard.

“Most senior citizens and other people living on a fixed income already find it very difficult to meet the rising cost of housing and utilities,” says Director Theresa Buchner from the Society for Protection and Care of Seniors. “Even before this shocking increase, many found it tough to get other necessities like medications or food.

“I was given a quote overheard from some of our local seniors, “heat or eat” I think that says it all.”

And the reason for the increase?

According to the company, the warmer than usual climate.

“Natural gas prices have risen since spring 2016 due to a hotter-than-normal summer for most of Canada and the U.S.,” the company stated in its Sept. 12 news release. “The increased temperature has resulted in a higher-than-expected demand for electricity, which is often generated by natural gas. This, combined with a reduction in natural gas production, has led to an increase in prices during the past few months.”