Redford government announces electricity review

The Redford government is reviewing the province's electricity retail market to address issues of volatility and costs associated with the variable, or default, rate.

The Redford government is reviewing the province's electricity retail market to address issues of volatility and costs associated with the variable, or default, rate.

The announcement comes days before an election is to be called.

"Albertans pay, on average, about the same for electricity as people in most other provinces," said Energy Minister Ted Morton. "However, our prices do fluctuate from month-to-month for those who are not on a fixed-rate contract, and sometimes quite significantly."

About 70 per cent of consumers pay the default rate.

The fluctuations do not affect those Albertans who have signed long-term contracts with power providers.

Opposition parties blame the province's move to deregulate electricity a decade ago. 

"Before the PCs deregulated electricity, Alberta had among the lowest power bills in the country," said Liberal MLA Kent Hehr. "Since deregulation, we pay among the highest."

The four-person committee will look at how the default rate is calculated and determine ways to reduce price fluctuations.

The committee will also review whether there should be a default rate at all, said Morton.

The committee will be chaired by Ted Pound, current member and former chair of the Utilities Consumer Advocate Advisory Board, and will also include Dr. C.R. (Sid) Carlson, Rick Cowburn and Nat Treadway.

The committee members will consider advice from regulating bodies, including the Alberta Utilities Commission and the Market Surveillance Administrator.

Electricity distribution owners, electric retailers, and associations representing municipalities, power producers and consumers will be invited to present to the committee.

The Utilities Consumer Advocate will represent consumers' interests. 

Individual consumers will be invited to fill out an online survey, details of which will be made public in May.

The committee will make recommendations to government by early summer of this year.