By Erika Mathieu
Sunny South News
The government of Alberta tabled Bill 18 last week, which, if passed, will provide electricity and natural gas rebates to help mitigate the impact of soaring energy costs to Albertan consumers.
The province announced the Utility Commodity Rebate Act (Bill 18) on April 20, which will replace the current Natural Gas Price Protection Act and would allow both electricity and natural gas rebates and would have the rebates applied directly to consumers’ bills. The province said the new legislation, if passed, will benefit nearly two million Albertan families, farms, and businesses.
In a recent press release, Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity Dale Nally said, “We know increased costs are affecting the well-being of Albertans, and our government is taking real action. This legislation is necessary to deliver electricity and natural gas rebates to help nearly two million Albertans. We’re providing short-term relief while creating long-term improvements that will make the utility system more affordable down the line.”
The program will provide $150 in total electricity rebates over three months per household or business amounting to $50 for January, February, and March 2022. During these months, many Albertans experienced extreme sticker shock as they opened their monthly utility bills. Many households experienced sharp increases during the coldest months of the year, leaving them with limited options for how to reduce their consumption.
In addition to the fall-out of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Russian war against Ukraine has also caused sharp increases in energy costs resulting in invoices for utilities soaring in the early months of 2022. According to a recent release from the province, “wholesale natural gas and electricity prices are expected to remain high given such global impacts.”
Before any electricity or natural gas rebates can be implemented, the current legislation needs to be repealed and replaced with an updated bill. The UCP is hoping the bill will receive royal assent sometime in spring 2022, to avoid delays, and if passed, the Alberta government will aim to, “work with utility providers and regulators to apply the Electricity Rebate directly to eligible bills as soon as possible.”
Additionally the new act, “will not affect any duties and obligations of utilities regulated under the electric utilities act or the gas utilities act.”
As well as proposed electricity rebates, the UCP has proposed a natural gas rebate as part of Bill 18, which would “shield” consumers and provide some relief on natural gas bills this coming winter season. The natural gas rebate program would be set to launch this October, should regulated natural gas rates exceed $6.50 per GJ between Oct. 1, 2022, and March 31, 2023.