Advertisement

Alberta UCP tables new Utility Commodity Rebate Act but silent on timelines

Click to play video: 'Alberta government tables bill for electricity bill rebates, possible natural gas rebates'
Alberta government tables bill for electricity bill rebates, possible natural gas rebates
The Alberta government has introduced legislation that would fulfil a promise to provide $150 in electricity rebates, and if passed would also allow the government to provide rebates on high natural gas bills. Tom Vernon explains how it would work. – Apr 20, 2022

Alberta’s Natural Gas and Electricity Associate Minister Dale Nally tabled Bill 18 in the legislature on Wednesday afternoon but did not say when Albertans can expect to get the money.

The bill, otherwise known as the Utility Commodity Rebate Act (UCRA), will repeal the existing Natural Gas Price Protection Act, which allows Cabinet to authorize rebates to eligible Albertans when gas prices are greater than the price prescribed by regulation.

Bill 18, however, will allow the government to implement an electricity rebate program and a natural gas rebate program because it brings together all utility commodities under a single piece of legislation.

The electricity rebate program will provide $150 in total electricity rebates over the course of three months ($50 for three months in a row), while the natural gas rebate program will kick in if regulated natural gas rates exceed $6.50 per gigajoule between Oct. 1, 2022 and March 31, 2023.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: '“We are struggling to make ends meet”: Calgary business owner calls for more support to deal with rising utility bills'
“We are struggling to make ends meet”: Calgary business owner calls for more support to deal with rising utility bills

Nally said the existing legislation does not allow for rebates on electricity bills and needs to be replaced.

“This bill is specifically designed to enable these electricity and natural gas rebates and provide real relief to Albertans,” he said.

“New legislation is necessary to enable Alberta Energy to legally put these programs into action.”

However, Nally did not provide a specific timeline on when Albertans will receive the rebate, saying it all depends on when the utility companies can adjust their billing systems

Breaking news from Canada and around the world sent to your email, as it happens.
For news impacting Canada and around the world, sign up for breaking news alerts delivered directly to you when they happen.

Get breaking National news

For news impacting Canada and around the world, sign up for breaking news alerts delivered directly to you when they happen.
By providing your email address, you have read and agree to Global News' Terms and Conditions and Privacy Policy.

The government will also not implement the natural gas rebate immediately despite natural gas prices being above the regulated $6.50 per gigajoule on Wednesday.

Story continues below advertisement

According to Nally, the high prices in April were unprecedented due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine.

“We know that natural gas consumption is highest during the winter months, so we wanted to provide a program that covered the winter months to provide real support to our markets,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Premier Jason Kenney promises gas price relief'
Premier Jason Kenney promises gas price relief

As soon as the bill receives royal assent, new regulations and amendments will be tabled to ensure the rebates are implemented as quickly as possible.

“We are encouraging the retailers to get this onto people’s bills as soon as possible,” Nally said. “I’m hopeful that will be June, but it may go into July.”

The new bill comes after utility prices soared in Alberta, which prompted the province to introduce the rebates in Budget 2022.

Story continues below advertisement
Click to play video: 'Alberta finance minister discusses 2022 budget and lack of immediate gas & power bill relief'
Alberta finance minister discusses 2022 budget and lack of immediate gas & power bill relief

NDP energy critic Kathleen Ganley said the delays to the rebates are “unacceptable.”

“Alberta families are paying record-high bills. In some cases they’re even facing threats of disconnection,” Ganley said at a news conference on Wednesday. “The UCP needs to figure out a way to get support to families immediately.”

Ganley also criticized the UCP’s decision to repeal the Natural Gas Price Protection Act.

“We’ve been waiting for almost five weeks now and they’ve come forward with a bill that repeals an old bill that’s virtually identical,” she said.

“I’m fairly certain that if (the government) wanted to rebate Albertans directly they could have just mailed them a check.”

In a news release issued late Wednesday night, Ganley said the UCP is seeking immediate passage of the legislation but the NDP “won’t give that to them because we are going to take time to see if we can make this bill better for Albertans.”

Story continues below advertisement

“Bluntly, we are considering amending this bill to see if we can force this government’s hand to actually help families.”

A recent study by the University of Calgary’s School of Public Policy found power companies increased prices to increase their profit margins.

“In Alberta, generators compete in an open market, with no guarantee the revenue they earn will be sufficient their fixed costs of investing in power plants,” wrote researchers Blake Shaffer, David Brown and Andrew Eckert.

“To do so, they need to earn revenues over and above their marginal costs of generating power… In 2021, this markup was nearly quintupled.”

The study also found that the federal carbon tax had a small effect on natural gas prices.

“Despite the attention, this adds only a small amount, roughly $2.50 per megawatt-hour,” the study reads.

Click to play video: 'Alberta NDP proposes draft legislation to prevent utility disconnection'
Alberta NDP proposes draft legislation to prevent utility disconnection

Sponsored content

AdChoices