The Alberta Utilities Commission ensures regulated utilities comply with its decisions, orders and rules, and with the relevant Alberta legislation and regulations.
In its compliance functions and responsibilities, the AUC has both an investigation and enforcement role, which for convenience is divided here into these six main areas:
The AUC enforces and administers legislation, regulations and AUC rules designed to ensure Alberta's natural gas pipelines are operated in a safe and secure manner.
The AUC licences and rate-regulates high-pressure gas utility pipelines, scrutinizes integrity management and emergency response plans, and oversees pipeline inspections and incident investigations that are delegated by the AUC to the AER under a memorandum of understanding.
Low-pressure distribution pipelines have shared oversight between the AUC and the Rural Utilities section of Alberta Agriculture. The AUC rate-regulates low-pressure distribution pipelines and has broad investigative and complaint resolution responsibilities, while Rural Utilities has responsibilities respecting technical standards and operations.
The AUC does not oversee oil and gas production pipelines or pipelines that cross provincial borders.
The AUC adjudicates allegations of market wrongdoings in Alberta's wholesale electricity market to ensure it functions properly and that energy trading is conducted in a fair, efficient and competitive manner. The Alberta Market Surveillance Administrator monitors the market and brings allegations of market wrong-doing to the AUC, where they are dealt with in an evidence-based, open and quasi-judicial manner, and where significant penalties can be levied.
The AUC also issues specified penalties related to investigations and enforcement activities around terms and conditions of service standards, about rates, and regarding utility facilities and landowner complaints.
The AUC ensures landowners are listened to and respected as utilities plan, construct and operate infrastructure. Any enhancements, additions or decommissioning of utility infrastructure such as transmission lines or power plants must be approved by the AUC. Affected landowners (and others with rights to use the land) have a right to participate in proceedings regarding the development of utility infrastructure, including generation development, that may have an impact on them or their land.
The AUC can and often does impose conditions on development on such things as land access and notice, livestock protection, weed control, the time of year heavy equipment may be used, etc. When warranted, the AUC will investigate non-compliance with its decisions, and order corrective action if necessary.
The construction, operation and maintenance of Alberta electricity and natural gas utility infrastructure are subject to Alberta’s environmental laws and regulations and generally subject to specific guidance from Alberta Environment and Parks and from the Alberta Utilities Commission.
The AUC considers environmental matters in every facility project decision. As part of the AUC mandate, it protects social, economic and environmental interests of Alberta where competitive forces do not.
The construction, operation and maintenance of Alberta electricity and natural gas utility infrastructure are subject to Alberta's environmental laws and regulations and generally subject to specific guidance from Alberta Environment and Parks and from the AUC.
AUC's decisions, orders and licences as well as the conditions attached to approvals are shared publicly, reported and monitored through the AUC's eFiling System.
The AUC sets and enforces specific requirements regarding noise associated with regulated utility infrastructure.
Landowners and anyone who has a right to use the land who may be directly and adversely affected by AUC decisions on utility matters have an opportunity to have their concerns heard and understood.
Affected landowners have a right to participate in proceedings regarding the development of utility infrastructure, including generation development hat may have an impact on them, or their land.
In its proceedings the AUC examines and weighs the approaches suggested by utility infrastructure developers (electric utility, generation and consumer natural gas pipeline firms) on how projects will be developed:
The AUC considers and weighs the approaches suggested or requested by affected landowners on the same topics. The AUC encourages agreement between utility developers and landowners, where and when it can be reached.
In its decisions the AUC sets out conditions that must be met by the utility firm around construction and maintenance of their lines and facilities. Breaches of these conditions, and general concerns about the operation or state of utility infrastructure can be reported to the AUC.
The AUC will investigate alleged breaches and may choose to take steps to encourage corrective action, including voluntary action. When needed, the remedy could be set out in an AUC order.
The AUC has broad and discretionary powers to order that projects be suspended pending remedy of shortcomings that violate an AUC decision, rule, order, or provincial legislation or regulation.
The AUC also conducts public information sessions ahead of, or concurrent with, applications for utility development to ensure landowners, local municipalities and other parties are aware of and informed about applications and understand their opportunities to participate in the AUC proceeding process.
Applicants are required to consult with local landowners and municipalities which may be affected by the proposed project. Applicants and the AUC are required to provide broad notice to residents of an area around projects proposed for that area.
If a landowner believes that an electrical facility owner or service provider has not complied with Alberta's utility legislation, or an AUC decision order or rule, they may email
email@example.com to investigate and lodge a complaint.
The AUC does not determine rates or conditions of service from retailers offering fixed pricing for fixed terms for electricity or natural gas. For issues with these contracts, please contact the
Utilities Consumer Advocate.
Rate-setting is at the core of the AUC's responsibilities in overseeing Alberta's regulated utilities. The AUC strives to ensure rates are just and reasonable, and that they provide a reasonable opportunity for utility owners to earn a fair return on their investment.
The AUC determines rates for utility distribution companies, for electricity and consumer natural gas transmission, and for some water utilities.
When utilities apply for rates, the AUC has an open and transparent process that evaluates submitted evidence that is tested and considered by consumer groups, industry groups and other interest groups to sets rates terms and conditions of service.
Participants in the AUC's rate-setting process regularly include the Utilities Consumer Advocate (for residential customers), Industrial Power Consumers Association of Alberta or IPCAA (for industrial customers) and the Consumers' Coalition of Alberta.
Each of these parties' file evidence and challenge numbers provided in rate applications submitted by regulated utility companies. Concerns about how rates are set are usually done as a united consumer group which presents a common argument for what they have determined to be just and fair to parties.
have a concern about the terms and conditions of your utility service, and particularly if you have a billing issue, you should contact your utility company first to try to resolve the issue. If you are unable to get resolution, the
Utilities Consumer Advocate can work with you to advocate and mediate on your behalf. If you have further questions you can also contact the AUC at 310-4AUC or
If you have a concern about the level of your utility rates, the Utilities Consumer Advocate has a mandate to educate, advocate and mediate for Alberta utility customers. It is among the organizations that represent Alberta residential consumers at AUC rates hearings. Additionally, if you are dissatisfied about your retail billing including in situations where you have agreed to a contract, please contact the
Utilities Consumer Advocate at 310-4822, review the website or email them at
April to December 2019 Enforcement Report summarizes the results of the AUC's 2019 compliance and enforcement efforts under a number of categories. As one example, of the 157 investigations noted above, 137 were related to specified penalty matters under service standards. The 2019 report provides a transparent look at the organizations involved in these contraventions, the specific type of contravention (e.g. incorrect bill, disconnection in error) and the bottom-line enforcement outcome of these specified penalty investigations. There were 64 penalties issued.
Specified penalties are just one tool the AUC uses to ensure utility customers in Alberta are treated fairly and that utilities respect the rules in place to protect both consumers and businesses. These penalties are a series of set fines that are applied when the AUC concludes that contraventions have occurred, with penalties increasing with the frequency of the contravention.
Specified penalties streamline and clarify what happens if utilities do not meet the standards set out for them. Some people have compared specified penalties to receiving a speeding ticket or a similar infraction and penalty where, depending on the seriousness of the violation, the penalty is higher or escalates.
The AUC intends to issue an enforcement report twice per year.
The AUC does not have regulatory authority for oil and gas production pipelines; these are overseen by the
Alberta Energy Regulator. When natural gas pipelines cross provincial or international borders,
Canada Energy Regulator
is responsible. Low-pressure natural gas pipelines that operate under 700 kilopascals are distribution pipelines regulated by the
Rural Utilities Branch of Alberta Agriculture and Forestry, which is responsible for the design, construction, operation, maintenance and quality assurance of these lines.
The AUC enforces and administers through staff work and regulatory decisions an array of legislation, regulations and AUC rules designed to ensure Alberta's natural gas utility pipeline operators operate their systems in a safe and secure manner. These laws, regulations, AUC rules and required procedures include:
Utility charges on your bill include four types of costs:
distribution costs and administration fees. All of these appear on your monthly bill for both electricity and natural gas.
Depending on your service provider and arrangement, you may also see other
municipal charges which contribute to your monthly total, such as water, sewer and a municipal franchise fees (also called local access fees). Franchise fees or local access fees are charged by the municipality for the use of land for power lines, substations or other infrastructure within the city or district.
Electricity distribution rates vary between distribution companies in Alberta because each company’s customer base is not the same. For example, a distribution system that serves mainly rural areas will cost more than a system that serves urban areas because the distribution company has to build, operate and maintain more poles, wires, and facilities to serve each customer. The number of customers on a distribution system will also impact the cost-per-customer. With more people covering costs, it will cost each person less.
Administration fees, such as franchise fees, are largely the result of municipal agreements with utility providers granting them exclusive rights over a certain territory and in lieu of certain taxes. In some cases these fees can be examined by the AUC in open, quasi-judicial proceedings. Applicants must demonstrate the costs are reasonable and interveners are welcome to demonstrate otherwise. The AUC approves such fees based on the evidence that is brought before it.
As an independent regulator, the AUC is responsible for determining most of the rates charged to utilities customers particularly for those who have not signed competitive retail contracts where rates and the term are set pout in the contract. When setting rates it is important for the AUC to keep customer utility rates low, but it must also provide a fair and reasonable return for each utility company.
The determination of transmission and distribution rates is based on the utility company’s investment in utility infrastructure and the costs to maintain that infrastructure. The AUC’s determination begins with an application by the utility company. In the application the utility company requests approval of the rates based upon forecasts, operating costs and capital investments. These rates are then reviewed and scrutinized. The rates are challenged in an open proceeding , where costs are reviewed line by line to determine reasonableness of the costs submitted.