Fewer Albertans facing utility disconnects this summer

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Fewer Albertans appear to be facing disconnections from their electricity this year, according to several large providers in the province.

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Enmax said 28 per cent fewer residents had their electricity limited when compared to last year, resulting in less than one per cent of all of their customers needing load limiters.

“We understand these are challenging economic times for many customers, regardless of which energy provider they’re with,” said Enmax spokesperson Chinta Puxley. “Enmax Energy has worked actively with households facing service disruptions and we have so far come to solutions for 55 per cent of households on load limiters to continue their flow of electricity.”

Load limiters are devices used to restrict electricity in a home when residents fall behind on their payments. The homes are then only able to run a furnace and a small number of appliances. Providers are not allowed, by law, to completely cut off services from October to the middle of April in Alberta.

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Puxley said none of their customers who were on load limiters have been disconnected at this time. She did not clarify exactly how many of their customers remain on load limiters, however Enmax’s website states they provide electricity to approximately 510,000 customers in Calgary and the surrounding area.

Epcor, in Edmonton, said it could not speculate on how many customers may be facing disconnections as it is a fluid number. However, the utility company said there were fewer accounts on a limiter at the end of the winter rules period than in the year prior.

“We are not seeing a year-over-year increase,” said spokeswoman Laura Ehrkamp. “We urge any customer missing payment schedules or with overdue balances to contact us as soon as possible as we are always interested in reviewing options to help them manage their account.”

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When asked for aggregated data on the number of Albertans who have been disconnected from their utilities this spring, the province said the Alberta Utilities Commission would be responsible for that information. In turn, the commission stated that information is not collected or published.

Official Opposition Leader Rachel Notley said Thursday she has heard from Albertans who are facing disconnections. She added her party will be keeping an eye on energy prices this summer and will continue to look for practical solutions for Albertans.

“We know that in the past, we’ve actually seen huge price spikes in the summer periodically, particularly if it gets really hot,” said Notley. “We’ve always said the $50 rebate for three months is likely not going to be the complete answer over the long haul.”

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The government promised a $50 rebate for three months earlier this year to combat high electricity prices this winter. Associate Minister of Electricity and Natural Gas Dale Nally has introduced legislation allowing for the rebates to be implemented. He previously said he hopes they can be applied by this summer.

The NDP raised flags on Thursday over a ministerial order brought forward Wednesday that allows for the rebate to be fully implemented by Dec. 31.

Speaking at an unrelated press conference Premier Jason Kenney said there is a technical issue in getting approximately 40 retailers to be able to pass on the rebate to consumers. He noted that the province has also slashed taxes on gas and will be protecting Albertans from surges in natural gas prices next winter

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