COVID-19 impacts

COVID-19 impacts

How the AUC is mitigating the risk of COVID-19 and continuing its essential work

Overview

The electricity and natural gas delivery systems in Alberta are reliable and robust. They are prepared to deliver essential services as we all work through this state of emergency.

The Alberta Utilities Commission is implementing steps as necessary to mitigate the risk of COVID-19, to both protect its employees and to continue its work critical to Alberta's essential utility services. AUC employees are now working remotely, both Calgary and Edmonton offices are closed. Teams assigned to specific applications and files remain engaged and in communication with participants.

The AUC has taken a hard look at what its regulatory priorities should be throughout the pandemic, amending, relaxing or suspending some activities so that the both the AUC and industry sector can allocate their resources as efficiently and as pragmatically as possible. The AUC has so far delayed publication of the AUC 2020-2021 Operational Plan pending resetting of priorities and realignment of employees’ individual work plans.

AUC Chair Mark Kolesar will continue to provide regular updates on the utility sector initiatives underway in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and how the AUC is adapting its regulatory efforts to focus on priorities.

Residential, farm and small commercial electric and natural gas customers who have been diagnosed with COVID-19, have been directed by health authorities to self-isolate, have lost their job or income, or are taking care of a family member can make arrangements to defer utility bill payments. This government of Alberta deferral program applies to any natural gas or electricity bill with a due date for payment after March 18, 2020, and ends on June 18, 2020, at which time payment or payment arrangements will be required. 

The program also ensures that customers will not be disconnected or be subject to collection activities during the deferral time period. 

The eligibility for this program includes electricity customers who consume less than 250,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year and natural gas customers who consume less than 2,500 gigajoules per year. Repayment plans and deferrals must be arranged through your retail service provider and support in negotiating repayment plans will be supported by the Utilities Consumer Advocate

The first phase of applications under the Utility Payment Billing Deferral Program were received by the May 22 deadline and all 16 applications have been processed, approved and issued. The second phase of funding applications begins June 19, 2020, with a July 10, 2020 deadline.

Please refer to the resources below to apply:

Further details can be found in Bulletin 2020-19.

While the coronavirus (COVID-19) has proven to be both unpredictable and disruptive, the AUC is taking steps to ensure that it can continue to perform its regulatory work critical to Alberta's essential utility services and to Alberta's economy. 

As part of its response to COVID-19, the Commission recently deferred all public hearings, consultations or information sessions until further notice

Hearings are only one component of the AUC's regulatory, adjudicative and administrative work. Should there be a requirement to proceed with an oral hearing or other normally public proceeding, written or remote participation options will be explored with parties. 

Facilities (power plants, substations, transmission lines, etc.)

The AUC is working to meet current performance standards for all proceedings that are in the decision writing stage with proceedings and dates.

For applications in record development with a category of one to three, processing continues as normal, in accordance with established timelines.

For applications in record development with a category of four and five, participants have been informed that the AUC will continue with written processes for these "in-flight" applications. Any potential delays, such as C-9 considerations, will be addressed on a case-by-case basis.

The AUC has made COVID-19 related changes to participant involvement programs for Facility applications.

  • Project proponents will now give stakeholders a minimum of 30 days to receive, consider and respond  to project notifications.
  • The Commission is encouraging stakeholder consultation initiatives alternatives to the usual face-to-face methods.
  • The Commission has indicated that project proponents should recognize the challenges Indigenous groups may have at this time and adapt practices and timing accordingly.
  • For health reasons, project proponents will no longer supply printed consultation labels to the AUC, Excel spreadsheets are required.

Recent AUC regulatory burden reduction initiatives will assist in allowing utility sector resources to be more focused on pandemic-related priorities. 

  • Elimination of construction progress reports for approved power plants.
  • Elimination of the need for compliance letters for routine direction responses.

Rates

For the approximately 40 active rates applications, effort is being applied to continue to meet application processing and decision timelines.

The AUC plans to meet its statutory requirement to issue the monthly retail acknowledgement letters before the end of each month to set the regulated retail prices.

Applications are being addressed on a priority basis and AUC staff will work towards meeting all targets as workload permits. 

As required, the AUC will defer applications that have the least effect on utilities, customers or AUC operations. 

AUC treatment of Rates applications

Market Oversight and Enforcement

The Market Oversight and Enforcement division is exceptionally active in assisting with the implementation details of the province's billing deferral program, and with recovery mechanisms for utilities to recover owed amounts and to deal with credit and cash flow issues.

The AUC has also adopted a more flexible and pragmatic approach to regulation in these challenging times, recognizing that like the AUC, industry is also generally working remotely and needs to allocate resources on a priority basis.

For specified penalties, the AUC has approved additional changes to reduce reporting requirements, increase efficiency and reduce regulatory burden under Rule 003, Section 3.43.

​Proceeding ​Dates, times and location ​Status
​East Strathmore Solar Project (Proceeding 24266)
​March 31 - April 2, 2020

​Deferred until further notice
​TransAlta Sundance Unit 1 and 2 Decommissioning Costs (Proceeding 23778)
​April 9, 2020

Deferred until further notice
​Distributed system inquiry techinical conference (Proceeding 24116)
​April 14-15, 2020

Deferred until further notice
​2021 Generic Cost of Capital (Proceeding 24110)
​April 20 - May 1, 2020

Deferred until further notice
​Windrise Wind Power Project Connection (Proceeding 25074)
​May 12-14, 2020

Deferred until further notice
​​Distributed system inquiry techinical conference (Proceeding 24116)
May 25-29, 2020

Deferred until further notice

Kaybob South No. 3Sour Gas Processing Facility cogeneration plant expansion (Proceeding 25117)

June 1-5, 2020

Deferred until further notice

​Rycroft Substation Expansion Project (Proceeding 25181)

June 8-9, 2020

Deferred until further notice

Contact information

  info@auc.ab.ca or 310-4AUC (310-4282 in Alberta)

AUC staff are working full-time remotely to continue with normal service levels in answering questions and assisting with concerns not handled by your service provider or the Utilities Consumer Advocate.

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Access all regulatory documents

Anyone can access applications and proceeding information through the eFiling System.

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