Bill 14 will enable the Utility Payment Deferral Program, which is helping Albertans affected financially by the COVID-19 pandemic.
If passed, the Utility Payment Deferral Program Act will allow electricity and natural gas providers to apply for loans either from the Balancing Pool or from the Government of Alberta, ensuring they have the cash flow to support Albertans through the Utility Payment Deferral Program.
The program – one of the first of several supports announced by government to protect Albertans and small businesses from the economic impacts of the pandemic – allows those experiencing financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19 to defer their utility payments until June 18. Eligible residential, farm, and small commercial customers can do so by contacting their utility provider.
“Our government appreciates the cooperation and flexibility shown by utility providers to help their fellow Albertans through these challenging times. We recognize industry has also been greatly impacted by COVID-19. Safe and reliable electricity is critical to Alberta’s pandemic response, and the Utility Payment Deferral Program Act will provide temporary financial support necessary to implement the program.”Dale Nally, Associate Minister of Natural Gas and Electricity
“At times like this, more than anything else, it’s important that we work collectively and make the right decisions for those who count on us. Bill 14 ensures that Albertans will have the assistance they need with their utility bills, so they can focus their minds on taking care of their health and the health of their families.”Stuart Lee, president and CEO, EPCOR
Bill 14 also lays out repayment criteria for individuals who defer payments through the program. Repayment can occur through equal, monthly instalments – starting when the program ends on June 18 – or through a repayment plan agreed to by the retailer and customer. All deferred payments must be paid back by June 18, 2021.
The bill will also provide the Alberta Utilities Commission with the authority to oversee the deferral program and the associated loans.
This program is one element of Alberta’s Relaunch Strategy that must be in place before Alberta can begin to safely remove public health restrictions. For more information, visit alberta.ca/covid-19.
- Bill 14 contains provisions that explicitly prohibit electricity and gas service providers from disconnecting customers during the time covered by the deferral program.
- In total, deferred payments are anticipated to reach about $337 million. To cover this amount, up to $119 million has been approved for loans through the Balancing Pool and a further $104 million has been provided by government. It is estimated that utilities, including the Alberta Electric System Operator, will defer about $114 million.
- Loans to retailers will be recovered over a 12-month period after the program concludes, as customers pay down their deferred balances.