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Future of natural gas prices up in the air

(Courtesy: twitter.com, user @FortisBC)

FortisBC given the go-ahead to buy natural gas on the open market, in case its own supply from Enbridge isn't enough

FortisBC customers should expect to be asked to conserve throughout winter

VANCOUVER (NEWS 1130) – FortisBC has opened up the option to buying natural gas on the open market to meet demand, but what does that mean for your future energy and electric bills?

Sean Beardow with the utility says it’s too early to know if that means a bigger bill for you.

“We won’t see an immediate impact on bills,” he said. “Any impact would be included in a future bill and would have to be approved by the [BC Utilities Commission] and spread across our customer base.”

He tells us the decision to allow the company to buy natural gas on the open market is a preemptive one, and doesn’t mean there is currently a shortage.

“It’s a matter of making sure that we have access to that gas if and when we need it. Right now, the temperatures are still somewhat mild … but by going to the open market, we’re able to make arrangements to purchase gas if and when we require it.”

RELATED: Fortis asks customers to continue conserving, despite Enbridge repairs to gas line

Beardow says repairs to the ruptured Enbridge pipeline were completed last Wednesday, but service has been brought back at a reduced operating pressure.

“Right now, we are operating with substantially less gas than we typically have at this time of year. By going out and making arrangements to puchase more gas, we can replace a little bit of what we’re missing from that pipeline and give us a little more wiggle room on the supply side.”

But he says there’s only so much natural gas the company can buy on the open market.

Fortis is asking people to go easy on their natural gas usage as it waits for the repaired pipeline to get back up to full capacity.

“It’s important that British Columbians cut back their natural gas use wherever possible so we can better control the demand for natural gas.”

He adds the need to conserve could continue through the winter. “That’s the likely scenario. It is something we’re going to be dealing with for the next few months, for certain.”

RELATED: Industrial natural gas users put backup plans in action ahead of winter shortage

The explosion at the Enbridge line near Prince George happened on Oct. 10, 2018. Beardow says customers initially stepped up and significantly reduced their consumption.

“We saw a 20 per cent drop in natural gas demand, almost immediately, which was really a big factor in making sure that we were able to keep all of our customers online with gas service during those first couple of days.”

But demand has been creeping up.

“As people have heard about the Enbridge line being repaired, thinking that perhaps the incident is over and there’s no more need to conserve.”