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'It doubled': Alberta power bills soaring along with the temperatures

Edmonton -

Soaring temperatures this summer have had Albertans cranking up the air conditioning, and power bill.

However, one Edmontonian noticed a significant price increase on her utility bill after just one month and chalked it up to extra energy use during the summer months.

“Holy crap, it doubled from the previous month,” Erin Drought recalled.

Drought said she thought the cost would eventually “balance out” as four adults were living in the home.

“We’re not people who hangout outside of our house,” she explained. “We’re always here, we’re streaming, we’re watching movies, listening to music and I thought it was that… until I looked at the rate.”

Drought told CTV News Edmonton she was on a variable rate not a fixed rate, so her bill went from $401.03 to $764.15 in one month, paying 18.05 per kWh.

“You think that when you’re on a variable rate it’s maybe going to be like two or three cents higher than what the fixed rate is,” Drought explained.

“So I thought, ‘Nine cents okay that’s fine, it’s pretty much what we were paying before,’ but yeah, it literally tripled what the current fixed rate is.”

The Alberta Utilities Commission, said electricity prices in the province are determined in an open and competitive market, meaning the price changes based on supply and demand.

Dale Nally, Alberta natural gas and electricity associate minister, says ordinarily the province would import power from B.C. 

"Due to lower water tables we've been unable to do so," he said. "All of that has had the net effect of restricting supply at a time when demand has never been higher." 

Drought said she always lived in apartments and didn’t ask for guidance on choosing a plan when buying a house.

“Utilities are not one of those things you talk about with your friends,” she said.

“You don’t say to your friends, ‘How much is your utility bill this month?’”

Eventually, Drought called EPCOR to get to the bottom of why the rate had jumped up so substantially and get on a fixed rate.

“The nice man kind of chuckled when I called and said, ‘I want to go on a fixed rate…’ and he said, ‘Yes, yes you do.’”

Chris Hunt, a utilities consumer advocate, told CTV News, picking a plan best suited for your needs can be overwhelming but there are resources available to help guide consumers to make the right choice.

To break down the charges listed on the bill, Hunt suggested contacting a mediation officer as they can look for administrative errors or additional transmission or distribution charges.

“Ask the questions and see what choices they can make to get their services for the best price possible,” he said.

Jim Wachowich, with the Consumers Coalition of Alberta Legal Counsel told CTV News, choosing a rate comes with its own set of associated risks.

“It’s a very complex market and it’s not one that easily lends itself to understanding by the average household customer,” he explained.

“You’re essentially buying a futures commodity for delivery to your home not knowing the price.”

Drought told CTV News she considered being more energy efficient to cut down the cost. But, at the end of the day she said “it doesn’t make a difference,” as she already has an energy efficient home.

For a list of regulated rate options in Alberta head to the Alberta Utilities Commission website.

And for anyone in need of some extra assistance in picking a provider, the Utilities Consumer Advocate page has a cost comparison tool that lets consumers know what choices are available.

With files from CTV News Edmonton’s Amanda Anderson Top Stories

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