Can I choose who provides my electricity or natural gas?
Yes. Since 2001, Alberta has allowed residents to contract with natural gas and electricity suppliers for their homes and businesses, or stay with their local regulated utility company. Many retailers offer a variety of options, including flexible plans, fixed-rate plans, green energy, combined discounts on natural gas and electricity, and more.
What happens when my contract with my retail energy supplier ends?
Your energy supplier may contact you 30 days before your plan expires to renew the contract. If you choose not to renew, you may choose another retailer or revert to your local regulated energy supplier after your contract ends.
Are there different types of electricity service? Is there any difference between purchasing energy for a business or a home?
Distribution fees vary based upon what a property is being used for — whether it’s as a residence, business or farm. Providers often charge different rates based upon the purpose of the property. If you’ve just moved to a home, or your business is operating in a new location, contact your energy provider (the company who bills you) and your distributor (their information is included on your bill) to make sure that the type of service you are receiving coincides with the function of the property. Otherwise, you may be overcharged for services. Any previous errors in billing will have to be negotiated with the relevant provider or distributor.
Is there a public or government organization that assists customers in dealing with utility and energy companies?
The Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) is a nonprofit organization founded in 2003. Its purpose is to supply the public the data necessary to make an informed decision about their energy and gas purchases, to advocate for consumer rights in laws and policies, and to assist customers in arbitration with their energy suppliers. They can be reached by phone at 310-4822 (toll free), or by visiting their website at ucahelps.alberta.ca.
Are there different types of power and gas companies?
Yes, there are two types of electricity and natural gas providers operating in the province of Alberta. The first are regulated-rate companies, which are your energy supplier by default. Only one regulated-rate company operates in any geographic area. Their prices are determined monthly by the Alberta Utilities Commission, and are required to charge you at the current regulated rate.
The second are competitive retailers — companies licensed by the province of Alberta to sell and electricity throughout the province, without geographic restrictions. Competitive retailers set their own rates, and are unregulated by the AUC. You should carefully review all terms and conditions before signing a contract with a competitive energy retailer.
What does RRO stand for?
Regulated-rate companies sell electricity to their customers at the Regulated Rate Option (RRO) price, which is regulated and approved by the Alberta Utilities Commission. The RRO price varies monthly, based upon market conditions, and external influences such as weather and world events.
Residential customers pay the RRO rate for electricity if they choose to do business with the regulated provider in your area. You also have the option to instead choose an electricity retailer, and pay them for electricity services at an agreed-upon price.
Is the RRO price a fixed price?
The RRO price is determined and published monthly by the Alberta Utilities Commission, and is dependent upon a number of factors. If you wish to obtain a fixed, unchanging rate for electricity or natural gas, it will be necessary to sign up for a plan with a competitive retailer.
The price I’m paying for electricity or natural gas change month to month, and my bills during winter are often very expensive. This makes it difficult to maintain a budget. Is there anything I can do?
Competitive energy retailers usually offer consistent payment plans. Some plans have a single, fixed rate that is the same year-round, and is often guaranteed for three or five years. They may also offer an “equal payment” or “budget payment” plan, in which your rate changes according to market conditions, but your estimated payments for the next year are averaged out ahead of time.
Typically, you must have lived at your current location for at least a few months for your provider to have the historical data necessary to calculate an average payment for an equal payment plan.
The terms of a budget plan can be complicated or easily misunderstood, so carefully review the terms and conditions, and clarify any uncertainties with your retailer before agreeing to such a plan. Accidentally underpaying your budget payment bill can result in the plan being canceled, and your entire existing balancing coming due.
I don’t understand something about my electricity or gas bill. Can someone help me?
You should contact your provider’s customer service department, to see if they can assist you. Their contact information will be available on your monthly bill, and can also be found at the UCA Helps website. UCA’s site also provides a detailed breakdown on the information included in your energy bill, which may help you in resolving your confusion.
Do competitive retailers offer RRO or regulated rates for electricity or natural gas?
No, regulated rates for services are only available through your default energy provider. The prices charged by retailers are not regulated by the Alberta Utilities Commission, which determines the RRO rates charged by regulated providers.
What if I can’t tell who is reading my meter, or I think someone is falsely claiming to be my meter reader? How can I find out?
Meter reading is conducted by your local electricity distributor. Your electricity distributor is NOT the same company who bills you for your electricity, but rather is the company responsible for maintaining the distribution of electricity to your area. Consult the website for your electricity retailer; it should have information to help you identify someone as a legitimate meter reader. If you cannot locate this information, trying speaking with your provider’s customer service department, or contact the UCA at their website, ucahelps.alberta.ca.
Do I still have to pay taxes and other fees if I switch from my regulated provider to a competitive retailer?
Yes. When you sign a contract with a retailer for electricity or natural gas services, only the rate at which you are charged for the volume of electricity or gas you consume changes. Distribution costs, administration fees and taxes remain the same, regardless of who you pay for your electricity and gas service.
I just signed a contract with an energy provider, but now I want to change my mind. Can I cancel my service?
Residential customers can cancel their service without penalty within 10 days of the marketer receiving your signed copy of the contract. If you signed up over the phone but never submitted a contract in writing, you may cancel within 60 days of receiving your first bill from your new provider.
Otherwise, you will have to pay the early-cancellation penalties specified in the contract you signed with the provider, unless mitigating circumstances apply.
When I cancel a contract with a retailer, what happens with the existing account balance I owe?
Typically, the full amount of the balance owed on your account must be paid in full upon cancellation of your contract. Many retailers offer long-term repayment plans, but the availability of this option is strictly at the discretion of your provider.
I just switched to a new energy provider, but I had a budget payment plan with my old provider. Will my old balance and plan be transferred over to my contract with my new provider?
Existing payment plans and balances cannot be transferred between different retailers, or between a competitive retailer and a regulated retailer. Any balance owed to your original provider will be due upon the cancellation of your service, and any modified terms of payment will not apply to the contract with your new provider.
What is this long number on my contract? It doesn’t look like a phone number or anything else I recognize.
All billing statements include a 13-digit number called a site ID. Every property in the province of Alberta with an electricity or natural gas meter has a unique site ID number assigned to that meter. The site ID number corresponds to the address at which the meter is located, and is used by power companies to keep track of customers and the amount of energy they use. If you notice that the site ID number on your bill does not match the number on your billing statement, contact your distributor immediately—their contact information will be provided in your billing statement.
I have a property that will be vacant for a long period of time. Is there any way to avoid paying fees for electricity and gas service while it remains unused?
You may contact your provider and request that your electricity and gas service be physically disconnected while the property remains unused. However, a reconnection fee may be charged when you require the service to be reconnected, and can be costly.
Additionally, if gas service is suspended for more than six months, your meter will have to be examined by an inspector, and the condition of the gas line verified by a licensed contractor before service can be resumed. The property owner is responsible for all costs involved.