SURREY, BC, March 14, 2014 /CNW/ - FortisBC has received direction from the BC Utilities Commission (BCUC) to increase natural gas commodity rates for most customers starting April 1. Piped propane customers living in Revelstoke will also see an increase in their commodity rates.
"North America markets have experienced some of the coldest weather in over a decade this past winter, resulting in significant drawdown of natural gas storage inventory levels and upward pressure on commodity prices," said Cynthia Des Brisay, vice-president of energy supply and resource development. "The market outlook indicates that natural gas prices may return to lower levels once natural gas inventories are replenished. This could result in a reduction to commodity rates before the winter heating season."
Every three months, FortisBC reviews natural gas and propane commodity rates with the BCUC in order to make sure rates passed on to customers cover the cost of purchasing the gas and propane on their behalf. Factors affecting the market price of natural gas and propane in North America include weather, supply and demand and economic conditions. Propane prices are also influenced by global oil markets.
"Despite this increase, natural gas customers will still be benefitting from a commodity rate that is less than half the rate experienced when the market hit its highs in July 2008," added Des Brisay. "Natural gas supply in North America and B.C. remains healthy, particularly due to advances in technology that have reduced production costs and unlocked the potential of new supply basins. Because of this, the long-term outlook is for natural gas prices to remain below the levels seen only a few years ago."
Rates and rate structures vary across the FortisBC natural gas service territory, and certain service areas will remain unchanged. Customers will see the following changes to their commodity rate effective April 1, 2014:
Lower Mainland, Fraser Valley, Interior, North and the Kootenays
- Residential customers will see an increase to the commodity rate of $1.368 per gigajoule (GJ).
- Customer Choice program participants will not be affected by changes to the commodity rate.
- Residential customers will see their natural gas rate increase by $1.368 per GJ.
- Residential customers using approximately 140 GJ of natural gas per year will see an increase of approximately $270, due to an increase to the commodity component of rates.
- Residential customers receiving piped propane will see a propane rate increase of $4.290 per GJ.
Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast and Powell River
- Rates will remain unchanged from current levels for customers, including residential, on Vancouver Island, the Sunshine Coast and Powell River due to a different rate structure.
Earlier this year, FortisBC received BCUC approval for amalgamation of its gas utilities and adoption of common natural gas rates, with the exception of the Fort Nelson service area. This will provide greater rate stability, fairness and simplicity for customers. Following this regulatory decision, the amalgamation must receive consent from the Lieutenant Governor in Council. If approved, customers will see changes to their bill resulting from amalgamation beginning in 2015.
FortisBC offers tips on how to make your home more energy efficient at fortisbc.com/howto. Those interested about how their energy use may be affecting their natural gas bill can use the FortisBC energy calculator at fortisbc.com/energycalculator.
FortisBC is a regulated utility focused on providing safe and reliable energy, including natural gas, electricity and propane. FortisBC employs more than 2,260 British Columbians and serves approximately 1.1 million customers in 135 B.C. communities. FortisBC is indirectly wholly owned by Fortis Inc., the largest investor-owned distribution utility in Canada. FortisBC owns and operates four regulated hydroelectric generating plants, approximately 7,150 kilometres of transmission and distribution power lines, and approximately 46,000 kilometres of natural gas transmission and distribution pipelines. FortisBC Inc., FortisBC Energy Inc., FortisBC Energy (Vancouver Island) Inc., and FortisBC Energy (Whistler) Inc. do business as FortisBC. Fortis Inc. shares are listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange and trade under the symbol FTS. Additional information can be accessed at www.fortisinc.com or www.sedar.com.
Natural gas commodity rates explained
Natural gas is a commodity traded in the North American marketplace, like oil, gold or lumber. Through our commodity rates, we pass on the price of natural gas to our customers without markup; they pay what we pay. Our return is included in our delivery rates, which reflects the cost to deliver natural gas through our pipeline system.
Advances in technology have resulted in an overall downward trend in the production cost of natural gas over the past five years and increased natural gas supply in North America, including British Columbia. Although customers are continuing to benefit from a lower cost environment, natural gas commodity prices will continue to fluctuate depending on prevailing market conditions. The April 1 commodity rate increase is primarily due to the much colder-than-normal winter in eastern Canada and the U.S., resulting in high heating and power generation loads and drawdown of North American storage inventories to very low levels.
Every three months, FortisBC reviews natural gas and propane commodity rates in order to make sure customer rates cover the expected cost of purchasing the gas and propane on their behalf over the next 12 to 24 months. The current forward market beyond 12 months indicates that natural gas commodity prices are expected to decrease from current levels once storage inventories are replenished and a return to normal winter weather. This could result in a reduction in FortisBC's commodity rates before the next winter heating season.
Image with caption: "FortisBC natural gas commodity rate since July 1, 2008. (CNW Group/FortisBC)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140314_C5292_PHOTO_EN_37954.jpg
Image with caption: "Market price of natural gas - October 2012 to June 2017 (CNW Group/FortisBC)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20140314_C5292_PHOTO_EN_37955.jpg