Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley called on the provincial government to address skyrocketing utility bills. (Photo by Advocate File photo)

Alberta NDP leader Rachel Notley called on the provincial government to address skyrocketing utility bills. (Photo by Advocate File photo)

NDP calls on provincial government to address rising utility bills

With skyrocketing utility bills hitting Albertans hard in the early days of 2022, the Alberta NDP is calling on the UCP to help families handle the charges.

Some Central Albertans saw a nearly two-fold increase in their bill last month and in a press conference Thursday, NDP leader Rachel Notley said the provincial government has to step in.

“Alberta families are literally trying to figure out right now how to pay all the bills at the end of this month and it’s going to be just as bad in March,” Notley said.

In November of 2019, the UCP passed legislation that ended the price cap for the Regulated Rate Option.

The price cap program was implemented in 2017 and was designed to protect Albertans from volatile electricity prices while the province transitioned to a capacity market for electricity. With the government’s decision to halt the transition to a capacity market and maintain an energy-only market, the price cap was no longer needed.

The price cap was meant to ensure consumers on the RRO would pay no more than 6.8 cents per kilowatt-hour for electricity until May 31, 2021.

“Had the UCP left the cap in place, electricity prices per kilowatt-hour would be less than half of what consumers are seeing today on their bills,” Notley said, adding that some Albertans are paying nearly 16 cents per kilowatt-hour.

With cold weather hitting Alberta particularly hard in late December and early January, the strain on the grid was significant. On Jan. 3, the province hit an all-time high electricity usage of 11,939 megawatts.

Notley said the UCP could fix the current issue in a number of different ways, including reinstating the rate cap, apply a temporary reverse rate rider or implement an electricity rebate to fix the current issues.

She also wants to ensure the system is based on average electricity usage and it should be income-tested, to ensure the funding is dedicated to those families in need.

Premier Jason Kenney said Wednesday in an unrelated press conference, his government will be addressing high energy prices in the provincial budget next week. He went on the offensive and criticized the NDP’s policies.

“The NDP like higher power prices because they think it forces consumers to turn down the temperature at home and drive less,” Kenney said Wednesday.

“They like punishing consumers for consuming energy, that’s what they are Carbon Tax fans. We don’t like punishing consumers for consuming energy, that’s why we’re carbon tax opponents.

“If the NDP was in office, they wouldn’t be lower taxes, they’d be raising taxes… this government has cut taxes, but the NDP’s reckless spending would create permanent deficits and higher taxes, making the higher cost of living problem even worse.”

Kenney added there will be a rebate program announced in the budget for natural gas over a certain price point.

“It will be similar to programs that we’ve had in Alberta to address very high gas prices,” he said.