2024 return on equity (ROE): 9.28% 


Current return on equity

The AUC has the responsibility to ensure that the delivery of Alberta’s utility services takes place in a manner that is fair, responsible and in the public interest. Included in this mandate is an obligation to determine the fair rate of return for regulated utilities. It is important to have the right incentives for these businesses, so they continue to invest in Alberta’s utility services and infrastructure and provide important utility services to Albertans. Part of this includes allowing shareholders to receive a fair return on their investment, but this must be balanced against ensuring fair rates for customers. 

Alberta’s utility industry is known as a natural monopoly, meaning that there is limited or no competition. While monopolies are generally considered a negative thing, in this case there would be more negative economic and environmental impacts than benefits to having more than one set of wires and poles or pipelines to deliver energy to customers. As a result, Alberta sets defined service territories for utility companies. Part of regulating these utility companies includes determining the rate of return that is used in setting customer rates, since there is no competition and the regular market forces of supply and demand are absent. 

Generic cost of capital proceedings

Determining the fair rate of return for regulated companies in the absence of these market forces is not simple and requires complex financial analysis through a process called a generic cost of capital (GCOC) proceeding. In this proceeding, the utilities andrepresentatives of residential and commercial consumerspresent to the AUC analysis, evidence and financial experts review of utilities’ finances, credit ratings, credit markets, economic trends and other influencing factors. These GCOC proceedings are held every few years to update and review economic and financial developments since the last proceeding in the event the fair rate of return appears to be no longer reasonable. 

Fair rate of return for investors

Utility companies finance infrastructure investments (referred to as rate base) through a combination of equity and debt. Equity is the money received from private investors, including pension funds. Debt is the money borrowed from banks and other institutional lenders. In order to attract investors to invest in Alberta’s utility companies to finance infrastructure projects, the utility companies must be able to offer fair rate of return, or the investors would invest their money elsewhere. 

Generally, the generic cost of capital proceedings set the approved rate of return for equity (also known as return on equity) that is used in setting customer rates. Return on equity is calculated to compensate investors based on other comparable types of investment alternatives. Starting in 2024, the return on equity is determined through a formula. The established starting rate, which serves as the base in the formula, is set at 9 per cent and the formula considers two variables: changes in 30-year Government of Canada Bond Yields and changes in 30-year A-rated Canadian utility bond yields. AUC formulaically updates the return on equity annually and issues the following year’s rate of return in November of the current year. The 2024 return on equity, as determined in Decision ​28585-D01-2023​, was set at 9.28 per cent for all utilities. 

Generic cost of capital proceedings also determines each​ regulated utility’s ratio of equity and debt that is also used in setting customer rates (also called the deemed equity ratio). In Decision 27084–D02-2023 determined that all the distribution and transmission utilities will have a deemed equity ratio of 37 per cent, with the exception of Apex Utilities, which will have a deemed equity ratio of 39 per cent One of the factors the AUC considers in determining this deemed equity ratio is an assessment of the risks faced by the utility. 

The cost of debt (or the interest rate a utility pays on debt) is not typically set by the AUC, but is determined in the market, based on who is willing to lend the utility money.