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Edmonton water bills going up, EPCOR discount will buffer increase

Click to play video: 'Edmonton water bills going up, EPCOR discount will buffer increase'
Edmonton water bills going up, EPCOR discount will buffer increase
To pay for infrastructure upgrades and flood mitigation, EPCOR will be increasing water bills starting Friday but the company is cutting into profits to keep the increase down. Breanna Karstens-Smith reports – Mar 29, 2022

Residential water bills in Edmonton are going up about four per cent and commercial bills are going up by about eight per cent, but the increases would have been higher if not for $66-million discount from EPCOR.

In a report to Edmonton councillors on March 25, EPCOR expects the average residential water bill to increase by 3.7 per cent in 2022, 2.1 per cent in 2023 and 4.2 per cent in 2024.

That means paying $102 a month in 2021, $106 in 2022, $108 in 2023 and $113 in 2024.

Residential bills cover continuing utility service, investments in flood prevention, corrosion and odour reduction.

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The report predicts the average commercial water bill will increase by 7.9 per cent in 2022, 4.5 per cent in 2023 and 6.2 per cent in 2024.

“The increase is something that happens every April 1 and it’s the result of regulatory application that we took forward to city council last year and they approved in August of last year,” said Darrell Manning, director of regulatory and business process management at EPCOR.

“It’s a result of the increased investment that EPCOR has to make in water and wastewater infrastructure.”

Click to play video: 'EPCOR wants full control of Edmonton’s water system'
EPCOR wants full control of Edmonton’s water system

Manning said out of overall capital spending, 50 per cent is earmarked for replacing aging infrastructure and 35 per cent is for flood mitigation and odour reduction.

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The bill increases would have been larger but EPCOR introduced an Edmonton Economic Recovery Rebate.

The company will voluntarily discount customer bills by $66 million from its utility profits over those three years “in order to support economic and social recovery.”

EPCOR acknowledges this discount is only temporary but hopes it “helps keep customer bills stable during a sensitive period.”

According to the report, $28 million will be discounted in 2022, $22.1 million in 2023 and $15.5 million in 2024.

“EPCOR has decided, in recognition of the financial constraints that many customers are under because of the pandemic and the downturn in the economy, that we will forgo $66 million of net income over three years and reflect that in reproductions across the board to all ratepayers,” Manning said.

He explained EPCOR made the rate increase decision after consulting with stakeholders, including ratepayers.

“The increase they felt the most comfortable with was actually above what we’ve put forward and had approved by city council but we really felt that just given the nature of where the economy was at and the pandemic and the need for stable bills, that we thought it was the right thing to do.”

The discount will have no impact on investment or service levels, EPCOR said.

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EPCOR’s operating costs for water utilities are expected to average $290 million annually in 2022 to 2024, up from $287 million in 2021.

The company’s capital plan has $1.35 billion being spent on improving system reliability, replacing assets nearing the end of their life, reducing the risk of asset failures, implementing flood mitigation and corrosion/odour reduction strategy, serving a growing customer base, improving performance, achieving efficiencies and on environmental initiatives.

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One of the water services initiatives relates to public health and environment.

EPCOR will implement a lead mitigation strategy reducing “the amount of lead in the drinking water to conform to new Health Canada guidelines.”

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