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WINNIPEG -- The Public Utilities Board of Manitoba has approved an increase in the primary gas rate, but says because of other factors, most customers will see their bills go down.

The PUB said the typical residential customer will pay $127 less this year, a drop of 18.7 per cent.

In an order out Oct. 31, a PUB chart shows the typical annual bill for residential customers has reached a 20-year low point.

Funds for furnaces to be refunded

In its order, the PUB said Centra, a subsidiary of Manitoba Hydro responsible for the distribution of natural gas, asked to up the primary gas rate from $0.0852/m⊃3; to $0.0910/m⊃3;, which will lead to new consumer rates going into effect Nov. 1.

One reason overall bills are likely to drop is a recent order from the PUB directing Centra to refund around $17.7 million in a fund for a soon-to-be discontinued furnace replacement program. That refund will only affect the small general service class of gas customers, which includes residential users.

The PUB said all customer classes are expected to see decreases in their bills thanks to other factors, including drops in the market price of gas and pipeline transportation, and lower interest rates.