Centra to review propane prices 

After a winter of fuel rate increases, things finally seem to be settling down. Gasoline prices have dropped by up to 15 cents per litre, and in some parts of the country the price of natural gas has dropped from a high of $16 a gigajoule to around $5.50 a gigajoule in early June.

Centra Gas, Whistler’s major supplier of piped propane, says they are reviewing the price of propane and will report their findings to the British Columbia Utilities Commission.

"If anything needs to be changed, it will be an Oct. 1 change," says Geoff Higgins, Centra’s manager for regulatory affairs.

The commission approved Centra’s last application for a 20.5 per cent rate increase on July 1. Prices also jumped 19.3 per cent the previous November, 16 per cent in August of 2000 and 17.2 per cent in January of 2000.

For residential customers, the increases represented an additional $265 on average on their annual propane bills. For commercial customers, however, the increase was more substantial. John Grills, the owner and operator of Thai One On and Zeuski’s Taverna, estimated that the last 20 per cent increase would cost him an extra $20,000 annually between the two restaurants.

While the price of propane could drop, there is also a chance that it could stay the same or even increase further.

"We have seen some declines, but we’re also seeing the opposite in the oil market," says Higgins. "The price per barrel dropped to around $21 there for a while, but it has since gone back to $28 and $29. If prices follow, propane prices will follow suit and head up again.

"Because these fuels are largely interchangeable from an industrial perspective, they tend to drive each other."

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