Formed in 2003, the Utilities Consumer Advocate was founded with the intent of representing the needs of electricity and natural gas customers, specifically homeowners, small business owners and farmers in the province of Alberta. Their work includes advocating for consumer interests in energy regulations and policies, making information on energy companies available to the public, and acting as a mediator of last resort between consumers and companies.
UCA seeks to educate the public on how the Alberta energy markets operate, the options they have in choosing suppliers of energy, and the benefits of remaining with a designated regulated utility company versus entering into a contract with a retailer.
Recent data suggests that Albertans remain uninformed or confused as to what their options are and how purchasing electricity and natural gas services has changed since the deregulations of the 1980s and ’90s. UCA has attempted to correct that issue by forming a website, UCA Helps. Hosted by the official Alberta Government website, Alberta.ca, the site provides information about electricity and natural gas services.
UCA Helps currently offers a number of features — including data on current electricity and natural gas prices in Alberta and a search engine for customers to find all available energy and gas retailers in their area — with regularly updated information on local electricity and natural gas prices. The site provides a listing of green energy services offered by energy retailers, including options that partially or fully replace users’ electricity needs with power generated from solar power or wind energy. It also provides a large amount of background information, including historical energy rates dating back to 2002.
UCA Helps also assists customers with practical concerns, such as how to interpret the data provided in typical utility bills, and provides contact information for the customer service departments of all of the electricity and natural gas companies in Alberta, links to sources of financial assistance, and answers to common consumer questions.
Additionally, UCA Help offers mediation team services. They are responsible not only for resolving any issues you might have with a utility company, but also for providing monthly reports, so you could make a better choice in terms of rates, plans and companies. They also suggest you read available mediation stories to understand how UCA could assist you in purchasing natural gas and electricity.
Moreover, if you worry about your electricity getting disconnected during winter months), UCA can resolve it, and assure you that your house will be warm even if you delay your payments. (For instance, there are certain Winter Rules, which mean that electricity services cannot be disconnected from mid-October to April.)
Finally, UCA lists available agencies whenever you experience financial instability and need help with utility bill payments.