We all know someone who has been laid off, seen their work hours cut significantly, or had to shut the doors of their small business because of COVID-19. In response to this, the government has asked all energy retailers in the province to offer Albertans, who are in serious need of financial help, the option to defer all or a portion of their utility bills for up to three months.
Under this initiative, Utility Network & Partners Inc and NewGen Energy have imp
lemented a COVID -19 Utility Relief Program to assist all customers under our umbrella that are experiencing financial hardship as a direct result of COVID-19.
“Our government appreciates the cooperation and flexibility shown by utility providers to help their fellow Albertans through these challenging times,” said Dale Nally, Associate Minister of Natural gas and Electricity. “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.”
The program, which came into effect on March 18, 2020 and will run through June 18, 2020, is designed to provide temporary financial relief by allowing for a 90-day deferral of utility payments for residential, farm, and small commercial customers.
Additionally, under this program Non-Sufficient Fund (NSF) penalty fees for outstanding charges have been waived and disconnections for non-payment have been suspended.
“I applaud the government on the introduction of the deferral program as it provides much needed support for those in serious financial need,” said Nick Clark, Director of Utility Network & Partners Inc. “In times likes these, no Albertan should have to fear being disconnected from essentials like electricity and natural gas.”
The total amount of the deferred invoices and the repayment of the full amount will be spread out over the 12-month period from July 2020 to June 2021. In total, deferred payments are anticipated to reach approximately $337 million.
“We have electricity and natural gas customers in more than 400 communities all over Alberta,” said Clark. “To date, about 3% of our own customers have signed up for this program.”
While this is a necessary cost to support Albertans, it is important to keep in mind and prepare for any unintended consequences that may arise from the program’s implementation. For now, the focus is on helping Albertans get through this challenging time. A deeper dive into this topic will come in a future blog.
If you lost your job, or you have had to leave work to isolate, or take care of an ill family member, you qualify for this program. The program is flexible. Since the amount deferred will eventually have to be paid back, consumers who do not need to defer their bill for the full three months can arrange for shorter deferral periods, or work with our local customer care team to set up unique payment plans.
If you would like to discuss the various options available or enroll in the COVID-19 Deferral Program, our local customer care team is available Monday to Friday, from 9 am to 5 pm to answer any questions you may have. Call us at 403-450-8591 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A 60 second read: How to reduce your monthly utility bill
Let’s get right to the point: In April, if you were buying electricity from Alberta’s big utilities who were offering the government’s Regulated Rate Option (RRO), you likely paid about 5.7 ¢/kWh. If you had shopped around you could have found variable rates from smaller and independent competitive providers like NewGen Energy for an average of 4.2 ¢/kWh.
In April, Consumers in Alberta still stuck on the RRO paid 35% more than they needed to.
“Consumers can focus on helping themselves to cut their own utility costs, either by reducing consumption, or shopping around for a better rate,” said Larry Peters, VP Business Development of NewGen Energy “This can help customers reduce the amount being deferred under the government program.”
“Additionally, some Albertans are overpaying for Administration Fees,” added Larry Peters. “For example, if you are buying electricity and natural gas from Direct Energy’s competitive arm, you would have paid upwards of $12 per month in admin fees for gas and electricity. This is more than double what other providers in the province, including our company, are currently charging.”
The numbers are clear. Why pay more than you need to, especially to companies that have shipped their customer care and billing service jobs out of the country?
Switching providers is painless and easy. Now, more than ever, it is important to support the competitive market and independent local retailers that are offering lower electricity rates and administration fees. Shop local, reduce your bills, and save. Switch today by following this link to NewGen.
If you need any help during the COVID-19 shutdown, we are here to help in any way we can.
Help your neighbour, be safe, and be vigilant.