The Commission’s enforcement staff conduct a preliminary examination of all complaints that appear to involve a contravention of Alberta’s utility laws, and Commission orders, decisions and rules. Many of those complaints are resolved without the need for further investigation or enforcement action.
If it appears that a violation of law or rule can be proven and the information is sufficient to warrant further action, then a designated enforcement Commission member (a member of the regulatory tribunal) is assigned to the file and decides whether further investigation is warranted.
The following matters were resolved as a result of Commission investigations.
January 26, 2018 – Oldman 2 wind farm environmental monitoring
The Commission closed its investigation into complaints by Alberta Environment and Parks that Oldman 2 had (1) failed to meet its environmental commitments of hiring an environmental monitor during construction, (2) failed to prevent disturbances to the ferruginous hawk and prairie falcon nest locations, and (3) failed to implement its post-construction mitigation plan during the three-month fall migration period in 2016.
Oldman 2 and the Ikea Group co-operated fully with the AUC’s investigation by providing information and exploring solutions to address its non-compliance. To address the identified non-compliance, Oldman 2, on behalf of its new owner, proposed to add the following conditions to its approval, which were approved by the Commission on January 26, 2018:
The approved application amendments that address the Oldman 2 wind farm’s environmental compliance are found in
The Commission initiated an investigation into 20 landowner complaints regarding allegations of insufficient reclamation along the Eastern Alberta Transmission Line and the Hanna Region Transmission Development lines. Landowner complaints included rutting, compaction, uncollected construction debris and damage to crops.
Commission enforcement staff conducted multiple rounds of interviews with each of the 20 complainants and determined that ATCO Electric had likely contravened the Commission’s directions made in Decision 2012-303 Eastern Alberta Transmission Line and Decision 2012-120 Hanna Region Transmission Development lines. Enforcement staff met with senior officers of ATCO Electric, and pursed a resolution to address the outstanding reclamation issues. Since that time ATCO Electric has resolved the majority of landowner complaints, with only a few that remain with outstanding concerns that are expected to be addressed in the next growing season.
Dalziel Enterprises Ltd. registered a complaint which asked the Commission for relief from the payment in lieu of notice provisions in Fortis’ customer terms and conditions of electric distribution service (T&Cs), along with certain other forms of relief.
In June 2016, the Commission’s consumer relations group contacted Mr. Gil Dalziel regarding a complaint that he had filed on behalf of Dalziel Enterprises Ltd. with the Alberta Minister of Energy concerning fees charged to Dalziel Enterprises Ltd. by Fortis. From that point on Commission consumer relations staff communicated regularly with Mr. Dalziel and Fortis about Mr. Dalziel’s concerns, while the two parties entered into voluntary discussions with the goal of resolving those concerns. On July 6, 2017, Mr. Dalziel advised Commission staff by telephone that he was unable to resolve the complaint with Fortis. On July 13, 2017, Fortis confirmed with the Commission that Dalziel Enterprises Ltd.’s concerns remained unresolved.
On July 26, 2017, the Commission initiated Proceeding 22796 to consider Dalziel Enterprises Ltd.’s complaint pursuant to its authority under the Alberta Utilities Commission Act and the Electric Utilities Act.
On February 9, 2018, the Commission issued
Decision 22796-D01-2018 which dismissed Dalziel Enterprises Ltd.’s complaint on the grounds that the T&Cs applied to Dalziel Enterprises Ltd., and that the payment in lieu of notice provisions charges were applied in a manner consistent with previous Commission decisions.
The Commission closed its investigation into complaints that FortisAlberta Inc. may been in contravention of its terms and conditions by incorrectly or inconsistently applying its farm and residential rates.
Fortis’ Rate 21 Farm Service states that the property must contain a residence and have agricultural activities that are conducted with the intent to earn revenue. It appeared that Fortis had a practice of requesting customers to produce a property tax assessment, and that there are varying practices between different municipal districts in terms of designating a property to be either residential or farmland.
The “intent” element of Rate 21 appears to require some form of customer declaration. Commission enforcement staff’s concerns were that (1) only existing Fortis customers were given the opportunity to sign a declaration; and, (2) those existing customers were only provided the option of a declaration after they produce a property tax assessment that stated that the site is deemed residential by the customer’s municipal district.
As a resolution to this matter, Fortis agreed to implement a process whereby a statutory declaration (that is signed by a witness) is made available for all new Fortis customers and existing Fortis customers that request a rate change. Further, that declaration would be made available to existing Fortis customers regardless of that customer’s property tax designation as a residential or agricultural site.
On March 24, 2016, Commission staff issued a letter to Direct Energy Regulated Services in which it noted a declining trend in the performance standards related to billing and customer satisfaction. AUC staff subsequently arranged a meeting with Direct Energy to receive an update from it. The update was to include the status of escalated complaints, which were under investigation at the time, the causes for the declining performance and the steps being undertaken to remedy the failing performance.
At that time, Direct Energy identified four main reasons for the escalated complaints:
Weekly meetings continued throughout 2016 and into early 2017 to monitor the progress towards rectifying customer complaints and resolving the four main reasons of the failing performance. All four reasons were identified as emanating from technical causes. By March 2017, Direct Energy stated that billing system solutions were implemented that addressed the technical causes of the customer complaints.
Also in March 2017, AUC staff advised Direct Energy that an independent assessment would be required to confirm that the technical solutions implemented did result in the billing issues being addressed. Consequently, Direct Energy retained PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP to conduct the assessment.
Commission staff received PricewaterhouseCoopers’ report in September 2017 and reviewed the testing procedures and findings with Direct Energy personnel in October 2017. Commission staff were satisfied with PricewaterhouseCoopers' approach in conducting its assessment and arriving at its findings. Overall, Commission staff accepted PricewaterhouseCoopers’ assessment and findings that the technical solutions implemented have addressed the billing issues.
Commission staff’s review and monitoring of the causes of the escalating customer complaints of 2016 is now complete. Further, AUC staff expects that the causes identified in 2016 will not re-occur and that customer satisfaction will consequently improve from the results observed in the 2015 and 2016 annual reporting of Rule 003 performance.
The AUC implemented the largest administrative penalty every imposed in Canada against TransAlta Corp., for breaches of Alberta’s electricity market rules. The penalty came after an open, on-the-record hearing and AUC proceeding.
TransAlta was ordered to pay almost $52 million in an administrative penalty and $4.3 million for the Market Surveillance Administrator’s costs. The administrative penalty included $27 million to cover any financial benefit TransAlta may have accrued, and $25 million as a monetary penalty. In its decision, the AUC said that it “believes that the magnitude of the proposed monetary penalty, when coupled with the disgorgement payment, is such that it cannot be considered by TransAlta or other future transgressors as a cost of doing business or a licensing fee for transgressions.”
The AUC has a dedicated team operating from its Market Oversight and Enforcement Division that oversees complaints about uncompetitive market behaviour.