If you currently live in Alberta, you probably know that a lot has happened in the province’s energy market in recent years: The government announced an ambitious plan to reduce coal-powered electricity, the home electricity price cap was hit for the first time in early 2018, and the solar energy industry has grown by nearly 500 percent since 2015. Although these are significant changes, the average consumer still wants to know how this news can affect their home energy bills.
In times of energy upheaval, the best you can do to avoid volatility is to make your budget as stable as possible. The obvious decision would be to find out how to cut costs at home. Indeed, there are many possibilities to reduce your overall consumption. Still, what can we do to keep Alberta energy bills under control even in times of volatile prices?
We’ve got some tips to help you keep your Alberta energy bills stable and avoid bad surprises at the end of each month. From governmental programs to cost-comparison tools, there are various ways for you to reach cost certainty with your utility bills in 2021.
Fixed-rate natural gas and electricity plans
Variable or fixed rates? The age-old question is quite easy to answer if you’re looking for price stability.
Alberta’s deregulated market allows consumers to choose not only from a range of energy providers but also from a number of energy plans. Most consumers can choose between fixed, variable (also known as floating) or regulated rates (RRO).
For people who are looking for stability, fixed rates can be the best option. Whether for electricity or natural gas, fixed-rate plans allow you to lock your energy rates in a guaranteed price for the duration of your contract (generally, the most common options are one, three or five years). Such a plan will let you know what to expect from your energy bills every month, and will help you avoid inconvenient surprises.
Once you’ve secured fixed energy rates, it will become easier for you to plan your expenses related to electricity and natural gas, no matter what happens in the Alberta energy market. Most of the competitive energy suppliers in Alberta offer customers this option, including Spot Power, ATCOenergy, EasyMax by ENMAX, Encor by EPCOR and Direct Energy.
Compare energy rates and providers in Alberta
Have you ever thought about changing your energy supplier? If you’re not happy about your monthly energy bills, or aren’t satisfied by the service brought by your electricity and natural providers, perhaps it’s time to start an “energy audit” at home. In other words, maybe you should find which suppliers are available in your area, research their plans and compare energy rates.
It can be surprisingly easy to change your gas and electricity providers, whether at home or for your business. At EnergyRates.ca, you can find the best available energy prices in your area. All you have to do is go to the cost-comparison website and follow some simple steps.
- Enter your postal code.
- Select which product you want to compare (electricity or natural gas).
- Select if you’re looking for residential, commercial or industrial rates.
EnergyRates.ca lists the cheapest available rates for both residential electricity and natural gas. Commercial customers, however, are eligible for custom quotes based on their energy needs. If you’re looking for a natural gas or electricity comparison for businesses, you just need to click on “Get Rates” to find out how you can sign a contract with the ideal energy retailer for your business.
The electricity price cap
The electricity price cap is a way that the NDP (New Democratic Party) government has found to reduce price volatility in Alberta when it comes to electricity rates. The price cap took effect in 2017, and it will be available until May 31, 2021, when Alberta will transition entirely into a capacity market.
So, what is the price cap for Alberta electricity rates?
The price cap basically works as a protection for consumers. Regulated-rate providers can’t bill consumers more than 6.8 cents per kilowatt-hour (kWh). In that case, if the electricity rate is higher than 6.8 cents, the government will pay the difference above that rate.
The main idea behind the price cap is to diminish price volatility, and guarantee that RRO consumers (Albertans on the Regulated Rate Option) will pay the price cap or the current regulated rate, whichever is lower. The electricity price cap was hit for the first time in early 2018, and it lasted until early 2019, when rates went below 6.8 cents again.
Until May 31, 2021, whenever rates go above 6.8 cents, the government will pay the extra costs to protect RRO customers from unpredictability. According to the Government of Alberta, before the price cap took effect, prices would range from as low as 2.7 cents to as high as 15.3 cents.
Even with the price cap, as of March 2019, fixed rates are still more advantageous than the RRO in Alberta, which means the lowest gas and electricity rates in the long term. However, if you’re moving into a new home within Alberta and don’t have the time to compare utilities and the price of electricity in your area, the RRO will help you find some cost certainty until 2021.
UPDATE: The price cap was scrapped by the Government of Alberta in October 2019. For more information, learn how this decision can affect your energy bills.
Home improvement program
The Alberta home improvement rebate program has a simple premise: incentivizing energy efficiency as a way of securing low energy bills in the long term.
Home improvements can help you reduce both electricity and natural gas bills, independently of what energy rates currently are. If such improvements come with rebates, even better.
According to Energy Efficiency Alberta, the Home Improvement Program can refund you not only for home maintenance products, but also for contractor spendings. The program’s official website even offers a database of registered contractors in Alberta, including drain water heat recover (DWHR), insulation, windows, and tankless hot water heater installers in your region.
Check below some of the home improvement items eligible for rebates and the related savings in the Home Improvement Program:
- Insulation rolls (save up to $3,500)
- Drain water heat recovery (save up to $500)
- Windows (save up to $1,500)
- Tankless hot water heater (save up to $1,000)
Home Energy Plan
The Alberta Home Energy Plan is another government-funded energy efficiency incentive. The rebates can be applied to many energy-efficient home upgrades, including new boilers, furnaces, windows and skylights.
Check below a high-level look of how the rebate program works:
- Complete a home energy evaluation by an Alberta Energy Efficiency adviser.
- Get your energy efficiency report.
- Complete the upgrades and get your cash back.
Depending on your home upgrades, the amounts could go up to $1,000. There are even bonus rebates of $1,000 when you complete three or more eligible upgrades suggested by the advisers. If you want to boost your savings, you can even blend your Home Energy Plan savings with local incentives. Many municipalities in the province rebate programs available, including Edmonton, Medicine Hat, the Town of Canmore, Brazeau County and the Town of Banff.