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Fourth Session, Thirty-Eighth Legislature

This version is based on the printed bill that was distributed in the Legislature after First Reading.   It is not the official version.   If accuracy is critical, you can obtain a copy of the printed bill from Statutory Publications.

Bill 11

THE WINTER HEATING COST CONTROL ACT


Table of Contents Explanatory Note

(Assented to                                         )

WHEREAS Manitoba Hydro's wholly-owned subsidiary, Centra Gas Manitoba Inc., purchases natural gas to supply the needs of consumers in Manitoba;

AND WHEREAS Centra Gas makes no profit on the sale of natural gas commodity to its Manitoba customers but only passes on to them the costs it incurs in purchasing natural gas;

AND WHEREAS price fluctuations occur between the date Centra Gas purchases natural gas and the date it sets the rate to recover its costs from its customers;

AND WHEREAS Centra Gas has the ability to account for those price fluctuations through the use of various deferral and gas balancing accounts;

AND WHEREAS the Province of Manitoba and the Public Utilities Board consider that the hardship that Centra Gas customers experience from escalating natural gas prices can be alleviated somewhat by deferring price increases;

AND WHEREAS the Public Utilities Board has ordered Centra Gas to take steps to enhance space heat retention and heating efficiency for reasons related to consumer cost, the environment and gas system viability;

AND WHEREAS the Public Utilities Board has encouraged Manitoba Hydro to explore the possibility of using its electricity export revenues to fund programs that encourage consumers to reduce their levels and patterns of energy consumption;

THEREFORE HER MAJESTY, by and with the advice and consent of the Legislative Assembly of Manitoba, enacts as follows:

DEFINITIONS

Definitions

1           The following definitions apply in this Act.

"Centra Gas" means Centra Gas Manitoba Inc. and any successor to it. (« Centra Gas »)

"natural gas rate" means the rate charged by Centra Gas to customers for primary gas purchased from Western Canadian supply and received at the Alberta border, and includes the base rate and all applicable riders, as those terms are used in proceedings before the Public Utilities Board. (« tarif de gaz naturel »)

"outstanding balance", in relation to a winter heating season, means the costs that Centra Gas

(a) incurs for the purchase of primary gas from Western Canadian supply; and

(b) does not recover through its natural gas rates when a rate freeze is in effect under section 3 or subsection 4(1). (« solde à recouvrer »)

"winter heating season" means the period beginning on November 1 of one year and ending on April 30 of the next. (« période de chauffe en hiver ») PURPOSES

Purposes of this Act

2           The purposes of this Act are

(a) to protect consumers from the impact of rising heating costs during the winter season; and

(b) to provide support for programs and services

(i) for electricity and natural gas energy efficiency, enhanced space heat retention and heating efficiency, and

(ii) for developing alternatives to natural gas,

in order to ensure that sufficient and sustainable energy resources are available in the future.

WINTER GAS RATE FREEZE

Rate freeze for 2005-06 winter heating season

3           Centra Gas must not apply to the Public Utilities Board for an order to increase the natural gas rates charged to customers in Manitoba during the 2005-06 winter heating season beyond the rates approved by the Public Utilities Board on October 27, 2005 and November 3, 2005.

Rate freeze for 2006-07 winter heating season

4(1)        For the 2006-07 winter heating season, the Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by regulation, prescribe a maximum percentage by which the natural gas rates charged by Centra Gas to customers in Manitoba may be increased during that season beyond the natural gas rates in effect immediately before the beginning of the season.

Regulation may differentiate between customer categories

4(2)        A regulation may provide a different maximum percentage increase for different categories of customers.

No increase above prescribed maximum

4(3)        Centra Gas must not apply to the Public Utilities Board for an order to increase the natural gas rates for the 2006-07 winter heating season by more than the maximum percentage, if any, prescribed for that season.

PUB may not make order

5           The Public Utilities Board must not make an order described in section 3 or subsection 4(3).

Accounting for rate freeze

6(1)        When a rate freeze has been in effect for a winter heating season under section 3 or subsection 4(1), Centra Gas

(a) must account for the outstanding balance for that season by using various deferral and gas balancing accounts; and

(b) subject to subsection (2), must apply to the Public Utilities Board for an order to adjust the natural gas rates charged to customers in the period following the winter heating season, in order that Centra Gas may recover the outstanding balance.

Recovery of outstanding balance

6(2)        The Lieutenant Governor in Council may, by regulation, prescribe a period of time over which Centra Gas must recover the outstanding balance from its customers.

STABILIZATION AND AFFORDABLE ENERGY FUND

Stabilization and affordable energy fund

7(1)        Manitoba Hydro must establish a stabilization and affordable energy fund sufficient to carry out the purpose described in subsection (2).

Purpose of the fund

7(2)        The purpose of the fund is to provide support for programs and services that

(a) encourage electricity and natural gas energy efficiency and conservation;

(b) encourage gas system viability and the development of alternatives to natural gas; and

(c) control consumer costs for electricity and natural gas.

Payments into the fund

7(3)        After consulting with the Minister responsible for Manitoba Hydro, Manitoba Hydro must pay into the fund a percentage of the gross revenue generated by the sale of electricity to customers outside Manitoba in the 2005-06 fiscal year and in the 2006-07 fiscal year.

Payments from fund

7(4)        Manitoba Hydro may make payments from the fund to support programs and services described in subsection (2).

GENERAL PROVISIONS

Conflict with other Acts

8           If there is a conflict between this Act and another Act, this Act prevails.

C.S.S.M. reference

9           This Act may be referred to as chapter W165 of the Continuing Consolidation of the Statutes of Manitoba.

Coming into force

10          This Act comes into force on January 1, 2006, and if it receives royal assent after that day, it is deemed to have come into force on January 1, 2006.

Explanatory Note

This Bill prohibits any further increases in natural gas prices for customers of Centra Gas during the 2005-06 winter heating season, and allows the government to limit such price increases in 2006-07.

The Bill also requires Manitoba Hydro to establish a stabilization and affordable energy fund.