About half of Canadian homes are heated by gas furnaces, and energy analysts say those homeowners should get used to the idea that gas prices won’t fall back to the lows seen in recent years.
Although winter is not yet here, higher utility bills are another new cost facing Canadians who are already battered by months of inflation in the prices of food and many more goods and services.
“Depends on where you are in Canada, but in general, a 30 percent increase in your utility bill,” said Jackie Forrest, executive director of the ARC Energy Research Institute in Calgary.
“And I would hope that doesn’t go away.”
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Natural gas, which is primarily methane, a fossil fuel, is widely used to heat homes from western Ontario, while electricity and oil are the main sources of home heating from Quebec to Atlantic Canada.
While several factors are contributing to the rising price of natural gas, experts say homeowners can take steps to lower their heating bills, including, for some, going off gas altogether.
“There are actually a lot of things you can do even without spending a lot of money,” said Violet Kopperson, an energy adviser at the Windfall Ecology Center in Aurora, Ontario, just north of Toronto.
Price fluctuations, war and exports.
This summer, natural gas prices in Canada rose to around $9 per gigajoules (GJ), about three and a half times the average rate of the last six years, says Forrest, an energy analyst with 25 years of experience.
They have slowed down lately, but he says they will not return to the average of around $2.90 per GJ that Canadians have grown accustomed to since around 2016.
“I think the last six years was an unusual period where we had very cheap gasoline. I don’t think that’s the future,” Forrest said.
For several years there were high levels of natural gas production in North America and, he explained, a miniscule level of exports.
More recently, however, North American natural gas producers have increased their exports. The change comes in part because of increased demand from European nations that have cut ties with Russia over its invasion of Ukraine, or have been barred from Russian access by Vladimir Putin in retaliation for economic sanctions.
While about 10 percent of North American production is currently exported, Forrest says exports will continue to rise.
“Before this decade is out, we will be shipping about 20 percent of North American production overseas,” he said, adding that he doesn’t see the industry ramping up production to keep prices in check.
“We’re going to have structurally higher gasoline prices than we used to,” he said, “so it’s really changing the dynamics of the North American gas markets.”
Your bill and tips to reduce it
A gas bill is more than the cost of gas, Forrest says.
“The cost of energy is only about a third of your bill. You have other things like transmission and distribution fees and you have carbon prices and things like that.”
But there are simple ways to reduce that complicated heating bill.
Kopperson, whose job it is to assess the energy efficiency of homes and provide advice to homeowners, has plenty of advice.
Simple low-cost actions include things like:
- Lower the thermostat while you sleep.
- Making sure exterior doors have weather stripping and weather stripping to prevent heat from escaping.
- Sealing around small openings for cable ducts and ventilation ducts.
- Switching their bathrooms to low-flow showerheads.
A low-flow shower head is cheaper because “the more hot water you use, the more energy you use,” Kopperson said.
The most expensive changes can include upgrading to triple pane windows and adding insulation to your attic or walls.
Lowering gasoline, with subsidies
Kopperson also recommends homeowners take a look at the federal government. subsidies Y we lend to improve the energy efficiency of your home, which can offset some of those renovation costs. Some provinces and cities also have financial incentives for modifications.
Suzanne Kettley of Ottawa is taking advantage of those programs to improve the energy efficiency of her home and go off gas altogether.
He replaced his furnace with a heat pump to keep his home cozy in the winter and cool in the summer. It will soon add a hybrid water heater that uses a heat pump and electricity to provide hot water.
“I’m lucky because at the same time I’m going to reduce my carbon footprint, I’m also going to avoid higher gas prices.”
She also hopes to see long-term savings from dealing with a single utility company and one form of electric power.
“If I’m paying shipping fees and administration fees, if I only pay them once to a company, then it will be cheaper.”
High prices are relative
As prices rise in Canada, consumers may find some relief in the fact that the situation here is not as bad as it is in Europe.
There, governments have asked people to reduce consumption and limit the temperature in their homes, while some businesses have reduced hours or even closed due to higher heating costs.
This week, the leaders of the European Union discussed but did not reach an agreement on limiting gasoline pricesalthough earlier this year the idea was supported by 15 EU countries.
The new European market for North American gas means that Canada is no longer a “bottled island” where the gas supply has nowhere to go but for domestic and US consumption.
“We’re being more influenced by what’s going on in the rest of the world,” Forrest said.
“We still have cheap power, but it’s not as cheap as we used to.”
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