Energy savings kits, such as the one seen here, are being mailed to Granisle residents to help ease the rising cost of propane. (BC Hydro photo)

Energy savings kits, such as the one seen here, are being mailed to Granisle residents to help ease the rising cost of propane. (BC Hydro photo)

Propane costs affecting Granisle residents

Village council looks for solutions; PNG sending energy savings kits

Pacific Northern Gas is mailing energy savings kits to its Granisle propane customers in hopes of buffering the rising cost of the fuel.

It’s being regarded as a first step toward what the Village of Granisle council hopes is a resolution regarding costs for the fuel which have risen substantially in recent years.

“Our community has been facing increasing Pacific Northern Gas (PNG) costs over the past couple of years and this year was both noticeable and concerning, especially with a community demographic of seniors on fixed income,” said Granisle mayor Linda McGuire of the community of just over 300 residents.

PNG services 42,000 customers and 16 communities in northeastern and northwestern B.C. with the vast majority located along natural gas pipeline routes. Granisle is PNG’s only community to be served with propane.

Current propane rates have Granisle customers paying $33.376 a gigajoule for the fuel and its delivery as of April 1 compared to the $17.824 a gigajoule for the fuel and its delivery as of Jan. 1 being charged to PNG’s natural gas residential customers from Vanderhoof to Prince Rupert. These figures do not include taxes.

Of those rates, Granisle customers pay less in a delivery fee than for natural gas customers but more for the propane itself — $25.862 a gigajoule of propane compared to $4.689 a gigajoule for natural gas.

In itself, the residential natural gas rates from Vanderhoof to the coast are the highest in the province to support a pipeline that has been largely emptied of industrial users over the years who had carried a lot of the pipeline maintenance costs.

The village council is also encouraging Granisle residents to sign on to a letter writing campaign to the B.C. Utilities Commission, which regulates PNG, so that the commission looks favourably at any cost-reducing application made by PNG.

“As someone on a limited and fixed income, it is becoming exceedingly difficult to continually manage a budget with unknown excessive monthly costs. And, unfortunately, I do not have the option to choose natural gas,” reads a portion of the letter residents are encouraged to sign and send individually to the commission.

“It is our understanding PNG is moving forward with a proposal to the commission to address the community concerns. The importance of this proposal is paramount to our community, and we ask for your sincere consideration when it comes before you.”

McGuire said the idea to send individual letters came from speaking to her counterpart in Revelstoke which also faced rising energy costs.

She said the village council is aware there won’t be an immediate response.

“It will take several weeks and perhaps even months before we hear if the utilities commission heard our concerns,” McGuire added.

As things stand now, propane has been rising steadily — from $22.17 a gigajoule for the fuel and delivery in Jan. 2021 to $28.813 a gigajoule in Oct. 2021 to the current $33.37 a gigajoule. As is the case with natural gas, PNG purchases propane and passes the cost to its customers at that price. It cannot increase the price beyond what it has paid.

PNG has yet to submit anything formal to the utilities commission but is considering an application that would blend in Granisle’s propane costs with those of its natural gas pipeline customers.

“This would mean that costs are distributed over a greater number of customers, which would result in greater rate stability for Granisle customers,” said PNG energy solutions manager Al Kleinschmidt.

He said PNG is speaking with local governments and elected officials about the the potential for higher natural gas rates if costs are blended with the price of propane.

“At the appropriate state in the process, PNG will also conduct public engagement,” he said.

The kits in the mail contain products to improve air tightness such as draft proofing foam weatherstrip tape, draft proofing v-strip tape, switch and outlet gasket pack, teflon tape and window and door caulk.

To reduce heat loss from pipes, pipe insulation is included and to reduce hot water use, kits contain a high performance shower head and a hot water temperature card.

Aside from energy savings, PNG added a carbon monoxide detector.

PNG has similar kits for residential natural gas customers but only those on low incomes can qualify.