New Brunswick

Natural gas customers hit with price increase

Last Thursday, Enbridge Gas New Brunswick raised its price for natural gas $2.35 per gig joule to $11.20, an increase consumers are paying now but won't see on bills until next month.

Enbridge Gas New Brunswick raised price of gas by $2.35 last week

Natural gas customers can expect a spike in their heating bills next month thanks to a rate hike by Enbridge Gas New Brunswick. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

What has become an expensive winter heating season in New Brunswick will be even pricier in February with natural gas customers the latest to be hit in the pocket book. 

Last Thursday, Enbridge Gas New Brunswick raised its price for natural gas $2.35 per gig joule to $11.20, an increase consumers are paying now but won't see on bills until next month.

Natural gas spot prices all over northeastern North America have been elevated since a brutal cold snap descended on the region in December.  

Enbridge Gas New Brunswick had been absorbing those increases through January but began passing them on last week.

"With the series of extreme cold and stormy weather events which wreaked havoc in eastern North America, the demand for natural gas has gone up in the last couple of months," said Enbridge spokeswoman Sara Gourley in an email to CBC News.  

"That increased demand led to the market price of natural gas increasing too."

Highest price jump in over two years 

The jump to $11.20 per gigjoule for gas is the highest price charged by Enbridge in New Brunswick in 27 months and will raise the total cost of bills to about 6,900 homeowners who buy their natural gas from Enbridge by 12 per cent.

Approximately 1,600 commercial and institutional customers will also be affected.

Nearly 70 per cent of all natural gas customers on Enbridge's distribution system in New Brunswick buy their fuel from the company.   

Nearly 70 percent of New Brunswick natural gas customers buy their fuel from Enbridge, and the company increased prices last week to the highest level since 2015. (CBC)
In January, customers who buy gas from other suppliers, such as Irving Energy and Park Fuels, were also hit with significant price increases.

Enbridge earns all of its income on distribution charges to customers and makes no money on the sale of gas itself.   

It is only allowed to charge customers what it pays for the fuel and reports to the Energy and Utilities Board once a year on those transactions.

Gourley acknowledged prices Enbridge charges for gas may remain high past February as the company recoups amounts it lost selling below cost in December and January.

Furnace oil has also been expensive this winter.

Maximum prices for the fuel approved by the Energy and Utilities Board increased last Thursday for the 13th time in 15 weeks and now sit 15 per cent above where they were this time last year.  

The price hikes for propane have been even worse. Propane hit a four-year price high in the province last week.

High heating bills across New Brunswick 

Those price escalations, combined with on again, off again cold snaps have been generating major heating bills for almost everyone in the province.

Last week some electric heat customers were expressing shock with their latest bills, even though the price of electricity for residential customers is just two per cent higher than last winter.

Campbellton resident Ricky Lee saw his electricity bill skyrocket. NB Power said extreme cold weather blasts combined with a lack of insulating snow cover on houses are behind most of the increases customers are experiencing. (Ricky Lee/Submitted)
Ricky Lee of Campbellton saw his January heating bill jump $320 over his December bill after cold weather over Christmas triggered an 80 per cent increase in power consumption in his modest bungalow.

"This is only a 1,200-square-foot box," he said.

NB Power said extreme cold weather blasts combined with a lack of insulating snow cover on houses are behind most of the increases customers are experiencing.

Natural gas prices in New Brunswick after the latest increase are now four times higher than in other jurisdictions, like Toronto, where Enbridge sells the fuel for $2.71 per giga joule.

Pipeline bottlenecks south of Boston combined with natural gas production declines in Nova Scotia have created stubbornly high commodity prices from the Maritimes through Massachusetts that flared up in the winter of 2014 and again this year.

Enbridge points out even with the latest increase natural gas remains at least 20 per cent cheaper to heat with in New Brunswick than either oil or electric baseboard.

However, other sources of heat including wood and pellet stoves and heat pumps are still cheaper.

One advantage of the higher natural gas prices has been at least a temporary resurgence in business for the Canaport LNG facility in Saint John.

It unloaded natural gas from three ships in January for export into the United States with a fourth scheduled to dock this week.

Corrections

  • Because of an editing error, a caption in an earlier version of this story said incorrectly that the maximum prices for natural gas increased 13 times in 15 weeks. In fact, those increases were for furnace oil, not gas.
    Feb 05, 2018 11:37 AM AT

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