THUNDER BAY — Homeowners with furnaces, water heaters or stoves fuelled by natural gas will pay more to use those appliances starting in October.
Enbridge Gas applied this month to the Ontario Energy Board to increase its rates across the province.
Late Thursday, the OEB approved the application.
In the Northwest, the increase for residential customers will be 6.2 per cent, or an average increase of just under $90 on an annual basis.
The rate hike takes effect on Oct. 1.
Enbridge says market prices for natural gas have increased, due mainly to Russia's war against Ukraine, paired with strong domestic demand and increased global demand for U.S. liquefied natural gas.
The company says it expects this situation will continue for some time.
Enbridge asks customers for assistance in reading meters
Customers in the Thunder Bay area are also receiving letters from Enbridge asking for help reading their meters.
The requests are being made because of a staffing issue, the company said.
"Unfortunately Enbridge is experiencing some challenges with staffing of our meter-reading positions, and that's particularly acute in some of our northern areas," said Andrea Stass, the company's communications manager.
Customers have always had the ability to read their own meter and submit the data online, she said in an interview Thursday.
"However, we are sending letters to remind them that option is available, and how they can do it, so they can get an actual meter read."
Stass explained that due to the staff shortage, in some cases Enbridge has had to estimate gas consumption for periods of up to several months at a time.
"We base our estimates on historical usage, so if people's usage has changed – maybe they've installed a pool heater, or maybe they've undertaken some conservation measures so their use is less – that may cause our estimate to be either too high or too low."
She said if customers are concerned about that, the company encourages them to submit their own readings so they will be charged for exactly the amount of gas they are using.
Regardless, though, charges are always "trued-up," Stass noted, once an actual reading is taken.
"At the end of the day, people will never be charged for more gas than they actually consumed. It just may take time for that to occur."
Enbridge attributes the current staff shortage to multiple factors, notably to the pandemic, which affected some people's work preferences.