TORONTO -- The cold winter that gripped Ontario will put a chill on the wallets of Ontario customers of Enbridge for the next couple of years.

Enbridge says the Ontario Energy Board has confirmed an interim rate hike granted earlier this year, but has told the utility to spread the costs over a longer period.

The increase will be spread over 27 months instead of the 12 months that Enbridge originally proposed.

Enbridge told the regulator earlier this year that the rate increase was needed to cover the added costs from what it called Ontario's coldest winter in 37 years.

Enbridge says it was forced to buy more natural gas -- at a much higher cost -- than expected and it must recover those costs.

The vice-president of Enbridge Gas Distribution, Malini Giridhar, says the company has no problem with spreading the pain out.

"We support the decision to ease the impact of the extremely cold winter on our customers," Giridhar said in a statement.

"We will be implementing revised rates in the next quarterly rate adjustment."

Enbridge's original proposal would have meant an increase of nearly $400 over the next year for the average customer, who normally would pay roughly $1,000 annually for natural gas.