June 25th, 2024

Utility customers to pay for losses on deferral program

By Tim Kalinowski on September 11, 2021.

LETHBRIDGE HERALDtkalinowski@lethbridgeherald.com

Local utility customers will be asked to pay a bit more starting in November to help recover the cost of delinquent payments still owing from last year’s provincial government COVID-19 utility payment deferral program.
“The rate rider that customers will see on their utility bills starting with their November statement is related to the utility deferral program which was created by the Government of Alberta back in March to June of 2020,” explains City of Lethbridge GM of Customer Service and the 311 Call Centre, Travis Hillier. “Any electric utility providers across the province would be collecting this rate rider to collect on the monies that weren’t collected as part of the deferral program.”
The Government of Alberta set out by legislation in 2020 how many months people could defer their electric bills due to COVID-19, and those taking advantage of the deferral option were given one year to repay starting in June 2020 ending in June 2021. For those who could not repay, the province, through the Alberta Utilities Commission, determined under the same legislation any amount owing after June 2021 would have to be paid back by all other electric utility customers in the province collectively by attaching a specific monthly rate rider on their bills until the full amount owing would be repaid. Local electric utilities would have no choice but to comply under the legislation.
“This is a program for all of Alberta,” explains Hillier. “The total amount the Alberta Utilities Commission is estimating that is outstanding is $8.7 million. And that will be collected amongst all Alberta utility customers, and it will show up differently on different people’s invoices but that is because it is based on your consumption.
“The average consumer will see a rate rider of $0.27 (per month) that is estimated to be on your invoice. But, again, if you use less electricity than the average consumer you will see less than $0.27, if you use a little bit more it will be more than $0.27.”
Hillier explains the breakdown of how the rate rider will be applied based on consumption.
“How the rider is calculated; it is (***$0.00045) per kilowatt hour,” he states.”You are paying based on your consumption, and if you multiply that (***$0.00045) per kilowatt hour– the average consumer uses 600 KW hours per one month– that’s where you get the $0.27. It’s not an arbitrary number, it, again, will be based on your actual electricity consumption as a consumer.”
City council discussed during Tuesday’s meeting, prior to approving the rate rider, possibly asking the province to provide a total estimated amount owing which could be paid outright by the City instead of through its consumers, or alternatively not approving the rate rider at all. Council was advised by City Solicitor Brian Loewen that the provincial government explicitly laid out how the delinquent funds must be recouped from local power customers with a rate rider on their monthly bill. He also reminded council the City of Lethbridge’s Electric Utility was legally required to obey the will of the Alberta Utilities Commission in this instance despite council’s disagreement with the process of collection.
Hillier says the province is estimating it will take four months using this rate rider method to recoup the $8.7 million owing; thus the average Lethbridge power customer should only have to pay just over one dollar.
“All utility consumers are going to help those who were unable to pay their bill because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” he says.
For more information on the provincial rate rider contact the City’s 311 Call Centre.

Follow @TimKalHerald on Twitter


***The figure ($0.045 per kilowatt hour) provided by a city official to calculate the proper rate rider was incorrect. 

The proper figure used to arrive at a $0.27 monthly rate rider per customer should be $0.00045 per kilowatt hour. 

The Herald apologizes for any confusion.

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