- What is "transportation service"?
Transportation service is the transportation of natural gas to your place of business by FortisBC. You must sign a Transportation Agreement with FortisBC if you decide to purchase your natural gas supply from a gas marketer. The agreement sets out the rates and terms under which FortisBC will transport your gas. A Declaration of Supplier must also be completed to appoint a marketer as your supply agent. Essentially, it means a third party is supplying your gas, while FortisBC ensures it is delivered to your place of business.
- How do customers choose between transportation and unbundled services?
Customers choose between transportation or unbundled service based on the volume of gas they use. Rates 2 and 3 customers can opt to have their services unbundled while large Rate 3 and Rate 5 customers can select our transportation service. In addition, we require all transportation service customers to install phone lines, and Rate 3 transportation customers pay a $600 fee.
- What is a gas marketer?
Gas marketers (also called brokers) are independent suppliers who supply customers with the raw commodity of natural gas. Gas marketers compete with each other and FortisBC to try and offer the best rate for your gas commodity. Instead of buying the commodity from FortisBC, you'll purchase it directly from a marketer. However, FortisBC will still be the one to transport the gas to your business.
- How long does a Transportation Agreement run?
That depends on when you switch to an alternative supplier. If it's November 1, you're obligated to that supplier for at least 12 months. However, if you switch to an alternate supplier before or after November 1st, the agreement will extend until October 31 following the 12-month anniversary of the agreement. For example, an agreement signed on January 1 will run for 21 months. (January to the following October). Then, at least two months advance notice is required to cancel the agreement. Otherwise, it will roll over for another term.
- Can marketers change their costs like the utility does?
FortisBC must always obtain approval from the British Columbia Utilities Commission (BCUC) before making any price changes. Gas marketers are able to change prices dependent upon their agreements made with customers. The charges are not regulated, and they may even differ from customer to customer in the same rate classification. Gas marketers may charge fixed or variable rates, or a combination of the two.
- If you have already signed a contract with a marketer, do you need to sign another with FortisBC?
You need to sign a contract with FortisBC to let us know we no longer need to purchase gas for you and for how long. Depending on the terms of the contract, there will be a specific date when you can switch back to FortisBC for your gas supply, should you wish to. This enables us to ensure you'll receive a continual supply of gas. We need to be aware of the terms and conditions you have agreed to with your marketer.
- Will you get two gas bills?
Yes. You will continue to get a bill from us, outlining delivery, basic monthly charges and demand volumes (Rate 25). The marketer will bill you separately for the commodity of gas. Note: that there will no longer be any provincial tax assessed on the bills from FortisBC (for those who do not have provincial tax exemption) when you purchase gas through a marketer.
- Do you need to install any equipment if you choose a gas marketer for your supplier?
Yes. You will need to install an analogue telephone line to your gas meter. We install a device called an AMR (Automatic Meter Reader) on the gas meter and hook it up to the telephone line. This device records your daily consumption and downloads the data through the telephone line. The download is done at night, so you will not even be aware of the phone connection. It is only a download system and cannot interfere with any other telephone transactions or computer systems. We need the daily consumption in order to tally overall daily consumption data. You are responsible for the costs associated with installation and maintenance of the phone line.
- Are there any additional costs or obligations?
Be sure any possible additional charges are spelled out in the contract you have with the marketer. In addition, you should be aware of the following commitments:
- You are responsible for the cost of installing and maintaining the phone line.
- You may be required to "nominate" daily natural gas requirements to your marketer. Your marketer may assist you with this task, or may do it on your behalf, based on previous historical consumption data and expected changes due to building or production modifications.
The marketer will charge you for the commodity, based on the metered volumes supplied by FortisBC and the details of your contract. The monthly charges from FortisBC will be as follows:
- Basic Monthly Charge (the same as you currently receive for Rate 3 or 5)
- Administration Charge (currently $70 per month)
- Demand Charge (applies to Rate 25 only, same as that applicable to Rate 5)
- Riders (Fine-tuning charges applied to gas rates. These would be the same as you would be charged on Rates 3 or 5)
- AMR/Meter Upgrade Charge - This applies to Rate 23 only, and is assessed to cover the costs of installing a meter capable of handling automated meter reading (AMR), and the cost of the AMR device. This is not assessed for Rate 25, or if there is already an AMR installed.
- Once you've signed with a gas marketer, what can you expect?
Once you've signed with a marketer, you or your marketer should notify FortisBC that you have elected to purchase your gas from a marketer. The marketer should provide you with a form that outlines information such as the company details, signing authority, selected rates and confirmation that you wish to change rates. This form can be sent directly from you or your marketer, and should be faxed or e-mailed to us for expediency.
FortisBC will prepare contracts for you to sign. Once you sign the contracts and return them, your next step is to install the telephone line. Your contract documents will contain detailed instructions.
Once you advise us that the phone line is installed, FortisBC will advise applicable billing departments that you are no longer buying your commodity from the utility, effective the first day of the following month (or later if indicated on the contract).
FortisBC will install the AMR, and whatever meter upgrades are required, and program it to download the data to our central computer. This may not be done immediately, especially at the start of a new contract year; however, that will not delay the start of your new contract.
The meter will be manually read on the last day of the existing rate, and all charges up to that date will be charged at the same rate you are currently being billed. Once you are on the new rate, the transportation (delivery) costs will be invoiced directly from FortisBC, and commodity costs will be billed directly from the marketer.