Enmax says no Calgarians lost power because of unpaid bills as city dividend increases to $62M

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Enmax says no Calgarians lost power due to unpaid bills as city dividend increases to $62M
WATCH ABOVE: Energy affordability and climate initiatives were front and centre at city hall on Tuesday as Calgary city councillors got a shareholder update from Enmax. Adam MacVicar reports. – Jun 28, 2022

Enmax is reporting the utility did not cut power to any Calgary residents who could not pay their electricity bills this year, but it did load limiters on around 1,500 homes.

According to the province’s Electric Utilities Act, utility providers cannot fully disconnect electricity services between Oct. 15 and April 15, while natural gas services cannot be fully disconnected between Nov. 1 and April 15.

But even as that date passed, Enmax interim president and CEO Charles Ruigrok said the utility did not disconnect any homes due to non-payment.

“The regulator actually thinks utilities will disconnect people, which to date, we have not done,” Ruigrok told reporters.

Instead, the utility installs load limiters that restrict the flow of electricity to allow for the use of essential appliances.

Ruigrok said there are currently 300 customers who have load limiters on their homes, down from 1,500 over the winter months.

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According to data supplied to Global News by Enmax, there were 2,100 customers with load limiters in April 2021.

“We have continued to work with the customers that were on the load limiters last winter to try to get them to the point where they can perhaps move to a budget plan that is easier to accommodate with their income streamsc, or defer payments,” Ruigrok said.

Electricity rates in Alberta have seen sharp increases since late last year, a development which Enmax said resulted in a record number of calls from customers in January and February to switch to a fixed-rate plan.

Enmax said it has seen 50,000 customers switch from a regulated rate to a fixed-rate plan over the last year.

According to experts, because 70 per cent of power in Alberta is generated by natural gas, rates are expected to stay high for the rest of 2022.

“We are expecting natural gas to continue at the price that it’s at, at least going into winter,” Anova Energy managing director Sophie Simmonds told Global News.

“We don’t foresee any relief for the rest of this year.”

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At a meeting of shareholders at city hall on Tuesday, city-owned Enmax reported earnings of $610 million.

The utility also paid the City of Calgary a $62-million dividend this year, an increase from $58 million last year.

Mayor Jyoti Gondek said there are conversations at city hall about how to use the dividend to help people “in need,” and who are struggling to pay their power bills.

“There are conversations taking place right now, but there are a lot of legal aspects to what we can and cannot do,” she said. “Together with Enmax, we’re trying to come up with the best solution.”

Gondek said the issue is currently “sitting with legal teams.” She added that the city needs to exercise caution before making any announcements to the public.

Climate targets

City councillors asked several questions of Enmax regarding its climate change targets moving forward.

According to Enmax, the utility has reduced its greenhouse gas emissions by 65 per cent from 2015 levels, with a goal of 70 per cent reduction by 2030.

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Ruigrok said Enmax has a target of net-zero emissions by 2050 — in line with the City of Calgary’s targets, but not with the federal government’s commitment to net-zero electricity generation by 2035.

“We’re really looking to Enmax to come out and say, ‘We support moving to net zero by 2035,'” Calgary Climate Hub co-chair Robert Tremblay told Global News.

“Enmax getting its stuff cleaned up is absolutely fundamental to all the other carbon reductions the city is going to do.”

Ruigrok said Enmax is supportive of the federal government’s targets but is still looking into the ramifications of the proposed Clean Energy Standard.

“If the electricity sector in Canada is encouraged to advance their net-zero timeline to 2035, we’ll be ahead of anything the city likely has,” Ruigrok said.

“I think there’s a great opportunity to work with the city on our collective goals.”

Ruigrok told councillors that carbon capture on its current sites will be a major factor in the utility reaching its climate targets, and that operations will eventually change from “shifting electrons” to “controlling stability on the grid.”

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“The city is a shareholder of Enmax, and as such, we’re going to be able to work (with) our utility provider in building our climate strategy,” Gondek said to reporters following the meeting.

“We can make commitments all day long, but if we don’t demonstrate the actions that we need to take, we’re not really getting it right.”

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