Normally it works like this – buy less, spend less. But when it comes to natural gas for heating in northwestern B.C. it is buy less, spend more.
That’s the reason for the region’s double-digit natural gas hikes as of Jan. 1. Because last year was warmer than forecast and Pacific Northern Gas (PNG) delivered less gas as a result, its revenues to pay the ongoing costs of its natural gas line suffered.
So now the B.C. Utilities Commission has permitted the utility to raise its delivery rates to make up for last year’s shortfall.
It represents yet another blow to northern natural gas consumers. Thanks to the disappearance of industrial natural gas users and the delivery fees they once paid to PNG, residential and small commercial users already pay the highest delivery fees in B.C. The result is a structural inequity which needs to be addressed given that natural gas heat is a necessity and not a luxury.
The provincial government could address this by increasing the homeowner grant in northwestern B.C. to at least partially buffer heating costs.
Such a move is not without precedent given the province’s continuing obsession with high residential house prices in the Lower Mainland, and the measures it has taken to deal with them.
There are a lot more votes down there than up here but that’s not a reason to ignore the real impact of heating costs in northwestern B.C.