Edmonton power prices set to surge 28 per cent

Increase for regulated rate will add $30 to average monthly electricity bill

 By Dave Cooper, Edmonton Journal July 31, 2012

EDMONTON – Power rates for Edmonton-area consumers without contracts will jump almost 28 per cent in August — from 9.03 to 11.54 cents per kilowatt hour, the highest since February.

The 2.51 cent increase will push up the average household’s monthly power bill by about $30.

By comparison, the rate last August hit 12.9 cents, while the rate for August, 2010, was 8.3 cents. Transmission and administration costs make up the other half of the average power bill.

“There are two periods each year when we see higher prices in the wholesale power market, when it is really cold or really hot,” said Epcor Utilities spokesman Tim LeRiche.

Epcor buys power for 600,000 city and regional customers under the regulated rate option (RRO). The firm has been trying to convince the province to let it purchase power over a longer period — more than the five to 45 days in advance of the delivery month. Firms which offer contracts oppose the move.

“While August is high, we have already bought some power for September delivery and feel the RRO rate could subside then.”

LeRiche said the July 9 Edmonton blackouts, when power prices hit the maximum of $999 per megawatt hour for a four hour stretch after four generators went down within a few hours, had no effect on monthly average wholesale prices.

“We had already bought our power for August at that point, and the average was still around $50 MWh.

Market demand is behind the wholesale price jump for August since all of Alberta’s generators are operating normally.

Epcor does not sell contracts, but the other large players — Calgary’s Enmax and Direct Energy — both sell power contracts to consumers.

However, there are plenty of smaller firms and co-ops that are now part of the mix for consumers who want contracts, says Nick Clark, managing partner of Utility Network & Partners Inc.

His company operates what is called boutique retailing, with nine retailers operating under his umbrella, using common back office services.

“In the past, the major barrier to entry in Alberta’s deregulated market has been the massive complexity in data processing, metering, load settlement, customer billing. We automated these functions and today we provide a number of retailers all over Alberta with an easy way to plug into the concept of cloud computing and use our centralized data hub for processing transactions,” said Clark.

Five new small independent retailers will start offering retail prices to consumers soon.

They are: Island Energy, focused on the Edmonton market, and run by Harold Seibert who also owns a satellite communications network focused on ethnic programing; Peace Power in Grande Prairie, run by Chad Mielke, a young entrepreneur; Northern Lights, the competitive retail arm of North Parkland REA operating out of Lac La Biche; Sponsor Energy headed up by Carolyn Martin and Peter Piliounis, a venture focused on creating a retail business linked to fundraising initiatives; NewGen Energy, founded by David McDonald, Jim Floyd and Larry Peters, will be initially focused on the farming and irrigation community in southern Alberta.

The current small firms using Clark’s services are Adagio, Brighter Futures, Bow Valley, E. NRG, Milner, Mountain View, Spark, Spot Power and Vector.

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