Credit card bills aren’t the only thing that Albertans will see high numbers on in the new year.
According to numbers released by the Alberta Utilities Corporation, electricity prices are expected to jump next month.
The regulated rate option (RRO) prices for utilities like Enmax, Epcor and Direct Energy range from around 27 to 29.5 cents per kilowatt hour, up five cents from December prices. In January 2022, those prices hovered around 16 cents per kWh.
On Wednesday, the province released details for its electricity price protection plan, placing a temporary price ceiling of 13.5 cents per kWh for January.
Any costs above that price ceiling will have to be repaid over a 21-month period between April 2023 and December 2024.
“We will be protecting consumers on the regulated electricity rate from price spikes in January, February and March 2023,” Minister of Affordability and Utilities Matt Jones said in a statement.
“Customers will be not be charged any rate above 13.5 cents during this time, even if the AUC-approved rates are higher.”
Jones said there are approximately 800,000 customers on RRO rates, “and we are protecting them from price spikes.”
Some electricity bills will also receive $75 bill rebates for January and February. Those amounts received a bump as part of the affordability action plan announced in early December. Electricity bill rebates were extended to April 2023, with $25 rebates coming in March and April of next year.
Jones said that brings the total of electricity rebates to $500 since July.
Both of the programs designed to address affordability are only for eligible households.
The Alberta government said this will provide support for more than 1.9 million homes, families and small businesses, but some critics have raised problems with the programs, saying they don’t apply to condominiums, seniors’ buildings and apartments on a single meter.
The Opposition’s energy critic said the government is not doing enough to help with an affordability crisis, saying power prices “continue to climb – this isn’t sustainable.”
“Essentially, the UCP has tried to push some of the amount Albertans owe for electricity past the next election,” Calgary-Mountain View MLA Kathleen Ganley said in a statement on Friday. “This is about politics, it’s not about helping families.
“These are half-baked, band-aid solutions and a prayer that prices come down, nothing more.”
Blake Shaffer, a University of Calgary assistant professor and former energy trader, provided some advice to electricity customers still on an RRO – the default option that is vulnerable to price fluctuation.
“Despite the government cap, still better to go fixed (rate contract),” Shaffer posted on Twitter. “And given the cost of the cap will be borne by RRO customers from April 2023 to December 2024, I’d expect a continued exodus from the RRO and a deferral rider rate spiral.”
Direct Energy, Enmax and Epcor all have fixed electricity rates contracts available at below what the RRO was in January 2022.
No natural gas rebates again
The natural gas rebate will once again not be triggered for the fourth month in a row.
Wednesday, the province said the highest monthly default natural gas rate for January 2023 will be $6.446 per gigajoule, just shy of the $6.50 triggering rate. The rebate would cover any costs above the triggering rate for eligible households.
The natural gas rebate program was set to run for six months, between October 2022 and March 2023.