Albertans overwhelmed by sky-high utility bills: ‘we’re not doing anything different’

Some Albertans have seen a recent spike in their electricity bill. Laura Krause has more on why some Albertans are seeing skyrocketing prices, and how to get the best rate on your next utility bill.

Opening her latest utility bill came as a big shock for Ashli Anger.

“Honestly, I thought it was a joke,” she recounted.

Those were the thoughts going through her mind when she received a bill for more than $1,500.

“I’ve always been really particular about my lights and making sure stuff is shut off, so it was an absolute shock to me when I see that bill, and I had no idea what would have caused it,” she said.

Anger’s not the only person experiencing shock with the latest bill. Hannah Moye says hers came out to nearly $800.

“It’s definitely going to take me time to pay off that bill, and chances are they’re not going to like that I can’t pay it all at once,” said Moye. “Our power bill has been the same pretty much consistently for however long I’ve been getting power at that house for, and then to see a bill for $800, there’s got to be a mistake.

“We’re not doing anything different.”

an Alberta power bill

An Alberta utility bill with name and personal information barred out. (Credit: Ashli Anger/provided)

Record high electricity in Edmonton

Joel MacDonald, the founder of EnergyRates.ca, says electricity rates in the Edmonton area have reached a record high this month – at a rate of 32.957¢/kWh.

Data from EnergyRates.ca also show regulated rates increased 100 per cent in Edmonton when comparing January 2022 with January 2023.

MacDonald says those hit the hardest recently are likely on a floating rate rather than a fixed rate.

“If you have a fixed price contract, you’re basically contracted with a base load plant through your retailer to purchase that cheaper electricity, and when the peaking plants turn on you’re actually protected from that,” said MacDonald.

“So over the very long run, electricity hedges tend to be a little bit cheaper than the floating rate.”

MacDonald says its important for consumers to understand why their utility bill is changing month to month.

“A lot of people they just look at the bottom-line number: ‘my utility bill was $500, my utility bill was $900.’ I would recommend taking a look at the line items. The first thing is taking a look at why your bill is increasing. Was it consumption? Did you use more energy? Well changing retailers or changing product types isn’t going to resolve that issue. Maybe you want to look at energy-efficient appliances, or did the commodity price go up?”

According to EnergyRates.ca, the spikes in energy bills could be explained by a record demand due to extreme cold weather and a higher demand for oil and gas while coal is being phased out.

Province providing relief

The Alberta Government is providing some relief to Albertans.

“We are providing real relief to help people pay their electricity bills this month, while also creating overdue long-term improvements to help lower costs in the years to come,” said Andrea Farmer, press secretary to the minister of affordability and utilities, in a statement.

“Albertans will receive another $75 rebate on this month’s utility bill, part of $500 total electricity rebates. Anyone who is on the RRO, and so not enjoying the fixed price of a competitive contract, is receiving extra assistance through the temporary price ceiling that is in place until the end of March. This will help lower costs by deferring them until rates drop in the future.”

RELATED: UCP affordability measures not enough: Public Interest Alberta

Farmer says work is underway to increase capacity in the utility system, which would provide long-term benefits in reducing costs.

“Thanks to our approach, there are 50 power plants under construction right now throughout the province,” Farmer said.

Navigating high power, grocery, insurance bills

Anger feels this isn’t enough.

“You’re giving me a $50 rebate a month on a $1,500 bill, like how does anyone think that that’s attainable? It’s not,” she said. “It makes me sad that people have to choose between buying as many groceries this month because they have to pay this utility bill. And what happens if they can’t make their car payments because of these bills?

“They’re going to have to jeopardize their livelihood to be able to just to have the heat and power in your home. That’s disgusting.”

RELATED: Study finds Albertans paying the most for car insurance

In the short term, MacDonald doesn’t see an end in sight for higher utility bills.

“We don’t have a crystal ball, but the vast majority of experts are expecting for the next 16 months for electricity prices to be very high,” he said.

For Moye and Anger, they feel anxious about receiving their next utility bill.

“I’m terrified for next month,” said Moye.

Added Anger: “It makes me wonder what my future bills are going to look like if they’re going to start coming in really big. This is something I’m going to have to learn to budget for.”

Top Stories

Top Stories

Most Watched Today