SaskEnergy customers could pay a lot more for natural gas next month.
The Crown utility is applying for an increase effective Aug. 1 that could boost residential rates by almost 17 per cent.
For the typical homeowner, that could mean an extra $12 a month added to their gas bills.
SaskEnergy also wants additional increases of about 3 per cent for both 2023 and 2024.
The Crown corporation says it’s responding to higher natural gas commodity prices and other inflationary costs. It also says that gas companies elsewhere have charged their customers more in response to higher input costs.
SaskEnergy says it also needs more money to maintain, update and expand its systems.
The rate hike application is heading to the Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel.
Meanwhile, the panel has given its seal of approval to a SaskPower request to boost electricity rates by about eight per cent over two years.
NDP critic rate hikes
Aleana Young, Opposition NDP critic for SaskPower, said she is not impressed with the proposed rate hikes.
“This is just another way that Saskatchewan people are being squeezed by a government that has record revenues,” Young said.
She acknowledged that the SaskEnergy hike is not surprising given the rising cost of natural gas, which is out of Crown corporation’s control.
“But what is surprising is that we see a government who is intent on pillaging a Crown corporation, having taken a $22-million dividend from SaskEnergy, in addition to a $50-million divestment of equity from source energy just this year,” said Young .
“Instead of helping Saskatchewan households, instead of helping Saskatchewan small businesses, large commercial customers, industrial customers … they’re turning around and the buck. And 17 per cent is an extremely aggressive number.”
Not waiting for panel green light
SaskPower applied to the Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel for a rate increase of four per cent this year and four per cent in 2023 back in February. The panel only just gave it a green light on Monday.
But SaskEnergy applied for it’s rate increase on Monday, and said it will go into effect Aug. 1.
“[This is] a government that is going to bypass the Saskatchewan Rate Review Panel with a three-week timeline for this most recent rate application and a government that is seemingly intent on doing absolutely nothing to help people address the crushing cost of living,” said Young.
The province told CBC News that it will not wait for the panel’s green light to implement the rate hike.
“Due to the extreme increase in commodity prices, SaskEnergy is implementing this rate adjustment effective Aug. 1,” the Government of Saskatchewan said in an email.
It said the Saskatchewan Rate Review panel will have from July to Dec. 2022 to review SaskEnergy’s proposal and provide its recommendations on the commodity and delivery service rates.
“It is important to note that even with the proposed increases, SaskEnergy customers will still benefit from the lowest natural gas rates in Canada,”
Cabinet will have the final say on both the SaskPower and SaskEnergy proposals.
Sask. residents react
Nathan Ruecker, a Regina resident, said the proposed SaskEnergy hike is simply too high.
“At the same time, we need power. And if costs are going up, costs are going up. But I think it’s a bit of government mismanagement as well,” Ruecker said.
Meanwhile, Regina’s Mary Moore said she has no problem paying the increase.
“You’re paying a certain amount, and $12 is not going to make that much difference,” said Moore. “I’ll pay it, sure I will.”
Tristan Gagnon of Regina said that all costs are going up right now across many nations, but that governments should be helping citizens deal with the fluctuating financial landscape.
“Should that be on us or should that be on someone else? Why hurt the people that are already struggling?”
He said that, no matter what, people will somehow be able to get by.
“But I do believe there are genuinely ways to make it easier for people to live. And I feel like there are people that are just inherently greedy, that don’t want to make that easier for you,” Gagnon said.