Two New Brunswick businesses are disputing claims that natural gas is less expensive than other energy sources,

Enbridge Gas made that statement in light of a possible rate hike.

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Despite a proposed rate increase, Dave Charleston, the general manager of Enbridge Gas New Brunswick, said natural gas prices are lower than other costly fuel sources. ((CBC))

Enbridge Gas announced on Tuesday plans, that If approved, would cause residential customers to see their delivery fees rise by as much as 27 per cent.

The largest commercial, institutional and industrial customers would see delivery costs jump by 180 per cent.

Enbridge Gas maintains the cost of its fuel to residential and small business customers is 20 per cent lower than alternates like home heating oil.

Killam Properties manages 6,000 apartment units in the province and the company has already converted some of its biggest buildings from natural gas back to oil.

Phil Fraser, the company’s president, said the proposed rate hike by Enbridge to raise delivery rates will likely see more Killam buildings converted back.

"We see no other course other than trying to convert more buildings back to oil from natural gas even though we did a lot of our conversions two to three years ago," Fraser said.

Alternatives to natural gas

Killam Properties is not the only company that is reconsidering its future with natural gas.

Mary Keith, a spokesperson for Atlantic Wallboard, said Enbridge could lose that company’s business if it's latest increase is approved.

"Atlantic Wallboard today is looking at alternatives. We're not going to be held hostage by Enbridge," Keith said.

"This is there is nothing about this rate increase that is justified."

Keith said the increase would cost Atlantic Wallboard an additional $1.3 million a year.

In seeking the rate increase, Enbridge claims that a "typical customer" will save 20 per cent by using gas over other heating products.

"We're still providing an energy source that is going to leave more money in the pockets of New Brunswickers," said Dave Charleson, the general manager of Enbridge Gas,

The New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board must approve the proposed hikes. If they go ahead, they would take effect April 1.

Enbridge Gas signed a 20-year deal with the New Brunswick government in 1999 making it a regulated natural gas utility. The company operates in nine communities in the province and services more than 10,300 customers.