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How the AUC is mitigating the risk of COVID-19 and continuing its essential work
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 has implemented steps 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, and teams assigned to specific applications and files remain engaged and in communication with participants.
The AUC has adapted and modernized its regulatory priorities throughout the pandemic, amending, relaxing or suspending some activities so that both the AUC and industry sector can allocate their resources as efficiently and as pragmatically as possible.
The AUC will continue to provide 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 had been diagnosed with COVID-19, had been directed by health authorities to self-isolate, had lost their job or income, or were taking care of a family member were able make arrangements to defer utility bill payments. This government of Alberta deferral program applied to any natural gas or electricity bill with a due date for payment after March 18, 2020, and ended on June 18, 2020, at which time payment or payment arrangements would be required.
The program also ensured that customers would not be disconnected or be subject to collection activities during the deferral time period.
The eligibility for this program included electricity customers who consume less than 250,000 kilowatt hours of electricity per year and natural gas customers who consumed less than 2,500 gigajoules per year. Repayment plans and deferrals needed to 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 began 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.
The AUC requested UPDP repayment reporting from all service providers, i.e., those who are currently providing monthly reporting and those who have not yet reported because of their decision to self-finance. Submissions are no longer being accepted.
In this third phase of the program, any utility bill payment amounts that were deferred and not repaid will be collected through an electricity rate rider and a natural gas rate rider from all Alberta customers. Submissions are no longer being accepted.
Further details can be found in Bulletin 2021-14.
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 deferred all in-person public hearings, consultations or information sessions until further notice. The AUC has transitioned to virtual public hearings, consultations and information sessions to ensure its regulatory, adjudicate and administrative work continues.
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.
Recent AUC regulatory burden reduction initiatives will assist in allowing utility sector resources to be more focused on pandemic-related priorities.
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.
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.