In Alberta, every customer has a default option and choices. Enmax is the default electricity provider in Calgary; Direct Energy Regulated Services is the default for natural gas.

About 40 other companies are competing for your business. Compare contracts at ucahelps.alberta.ca — the provincial advocate’s website that helps Albertans navigate the system.

Companies offer long-term contracts. But lawyer Chris Hunt says most companies now allow you to end the contract early without penalty.

“Most offer the option of canceling the contract with one month’s notice,” Hunt said. “People don’t like to be stuck.”

Alberta also offers two types of fares that customers can choose from. The default tariff is the regulated or variable tariff, which is linked to the wholesale electricity price. The second is a fixed tariff, which customers can access via an electricity or gas contract.

It works like the variable and fixed options of a mortgage, except many companies allow customers to keep switching between fixed and floating rates.

For many years, the variable rate was a better deal. But prices jumped last year and are expected to stay higher that the fixed rate at least until the winter. The graph above shows the expected prices based on the long-term contracts that the electricity companies have already signed.

This fee pays for electrical infrastructure across the province. They look like static charges on the invoice. But part of it has to do with how much electricity you use.

For an average home, 40% comes from a tax charged per day. The rest is billed per kWh (the unit of electricity measurement). Actions like turning off the lights, using a toaster oven instead of the oven, lowering the thermostat, and blocking drafts will help. More tips.

These fees have also increased over the past decade as companies modernized Alberta’s pipeline system.

An average household pays $32 per month in fixed costs (per day). The rest is calculated per gigajoule or unit of natural gas. Experts say gas is generally cheaper than electric heating in Alberta. So think twice before turning off the furnace just to plug in a heater.

(Brooke Schreiber/CBC)

Another charge indicated on the invoice is the “excess” or “municipal access”. This goes to general city revenue.

Franchise fees began years ago when cities gave a company exclusive access to supply electricity, gas or water to residents. They didn’t want competition and multiple sets of power lines, for example.

Now, cities and towns charge access fees, and businesses charge those fees to customers. Calgary’s charge is 11%, based on floating electricity and gas rates.

Alberta’s system is designed so that companies can charge all approved costs to customers in their rates and charges.

The Alberta Utilities Commission is responsible for maintaining this fairness. They act like a judge, reviewing company claims in hundreds of hearings a year.

Provincial counsel, independent counsel and other intervenors also attended the hearings. Their job is to advocate for a better deal for Albertans.

Thanks to the Calgary Local Immigration Partnership and Immigrant Services Calgary for translating this page. You can share these images with anyone who needs the information.