Albertans could lose power and heat as disconnection moratorium is lifted

In Alberta, residents cannot be disconnected from their utility services during the winter months, defined as October 15 to April 15 each year.

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More than 1,000 Albertans could be at risk of being disconnected from their utility services next month when the provincial restriction on shutting down services is lifted.

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In Alberta, residents cannot be disconnected from their utility services during the winter months, defined as October 15 to April 15 each year. The winter of this year has seen bills soar across the province, causing the NDP opposition to worry about next month’s deadline.

Energy critic Kathleen Ganley tried to keep disconnections frozen throughout the summer until next year’s moratorium becomes active. However, this proposal was defeated in the Legislative Assembly.

NDP Leader Rachel Notley said Friday she believes there are “tens of thousands” of Albertans who are behind on their bills.

“We don’t know the exact details, but we do know the government has the opportunity to protect these families,” Notley said while outlining a proposal to tackle rising inflation. “That’s what we’re asking them to do.”

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When the NDP was in power, it implemented a price cap in 2016 that capped costs at 6.8 cents per kilowatt for price-regulated option contracts. This price cap was removed by the current United Conservative government in 2019.

Associate Natural Gas and Power Minister Dale Nally said in a statement that data on potential disconnections is not yet available, but last year 1,485 disconnections were reported to the consumer advocate. utilities in the province as part of the reconnect program. In 2017-2018, more than 3,000 disconnections were reported.

These reports do not include all service interruptions, but rather indicate how many people did not access their public services during the summer months until October 15 last year.

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“We stay in regular contact with retailers about market conditions and issues such as disconnections. This week, there has not been an above average number of disconnections disclosed to us compared to what has been seen in previous years on April 15,” Nally said in a statement. “We will remain in close contact with these retailers and take action if these numbers reach worrying levels. The true impact of overdue accounts from January to February billing cycles will not be known until around May or June. »

Albertans have been hit hard by rising utility bills as demand spurred by extreme weather has been linked to market factors driving up prices, with some Calgarians reporting their bills nearly doubled from Last year. In response, the government has introduced a natural gas rebate that will take effect next winter if prices rise above $6.50 per gigajoule. The UCP’s projections in its latest budget do not expect prices to reach those prices, but Finance Minister Travis Toews said Albertans will be protected if prices continue to rise.

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The government also created a retroactive $150 rebate on electricity prices for the past three months and cut provincial gasoline taxes to help mitigate record inflation rates caused in part by the surge. gasoline prices and unprecedented demand in the face of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Enmax, the company that supplies electricity to large numbers of Calgarians, cited confidentiality reasons as it said it could not provide figures on how many residents are at risk of losing power. Spokeswoman Chinta Puxley said Enmax will reach out to customers using load limiters — devices that restrict power to a few household essentials — to help them find manageable payment options.

Epcor, which provides electricity to Edmontonians, said it expects the same number of people to be on load limiters as in previous years when April 15 rolls around. He also said the company would work with overdue customers.

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Nally said the most important thing Albertans can do if they’re worried about facing a loss of utility services is stay in touch with their providers. He also said they can contact the Utility Consumer Advocate for more information on specialty programs or contract support.

“Retailers are committed to exploring all possible options to help their customers stay connected with payment plans or other solutions, and will proactively reach out if a customer is about to disconnect,” said Nally.

Nally said accepting the NDP’s proposal to extend the moratorium on cutting services would cost Albertans in the long run, as other consumers would have to foot the bill.

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