Enmax paid $62-million dividend to City of Calgary in 2021

The company says it isn’t cutting power to customers who can’t pay, and use of load limiters is down

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Enmax reported strong earnings in its annual general meeting on Tuesday, but the company’s outgoing interim CEO said a rapidly changing market means customers could see some “creative approaches” to how the energy provider operates in the coming years.

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Charles Ruigrok, interim president and CEO, reported earnings of $610 million among its three business units: Enmax Power, Enmax Energy, and Versant Power in Maine.

Those earnings resulted in a dividend of $62 million being paid to the city.

Councillors also heard how Enmax had a 87 per cent customer satisfaction rating in 2021, answering 665,000 customer calls and emails and chats.

“(Customers) trust us to safely and reliably provide an essential service we count on each and every day,” said Ruigrok. “We take that responsibility seriously today and into the future.”

However, not everyone can afford the energy they need. About 300 Calgary households currently have load limiters due to missed payments, according to Ruigrok. The limiters are meant to provide a baseline amount of electricity to run essential appliances such as a furnace or a fridge during the winter months.

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“But the numbers are down fairly dramatically,” said Ruigrok. “I think last year, we hit a peak of something close to 2,500 (limiters). And this year, we were closer to 1,500.”

He said this year it represents an 80-per-cent decrease in the use of the devices.

He also said Enmax has not cut the power to a single home for failure to pay bills since the winter moratorium on power disconnection lifted on April 15. Cutting power between mid-April and mid-October is what Alberta’s energy regulator expects, according to Ruigrok, but he said they’re instead working with those customers on budgets and payment deferrals.

How the company will operate in the future was the subject of much questioning from councillors who attended the meeting.

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Ruigrok said Enmax is on board with the federal government in reducing its carbon footprint. The company’s goal is to reach net zero by 2050, which is 15 years beyond the federal government’s goal of a net zero electricity grid by 2035.

He said they look forward to hearing more details from the feds on the plan to get to net zero, so Enmax can be part of the solution.

The interim CEO made it clear he sees carbon capture and storage on its existing generation stations as one of the key ways Enmax will reach its carbon emission targets.

Coun. Andre Chabot asked about the possibility of nuclear power in Enmax’s future. Ruigrok said he didn’t see it as a viable option in time for the 2050 net zero goal. Likewise, he suggested solar, wind and hydrogen all have downsides that won’t allow for fast enough development for the less than 30-year timeline.

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Ruigrok said the company has an upcoming focus session planned for the fall, once newly-hired CEO Mark Poweska begins his tenure in September.

“One area of focus at that session is, what does that future like? And what does our revenue model look like long term when you have to make these kinds of changes?”

He sees the company’s future shifting from “moving electrons” to controlling stability on the grid.

With solar, homeowners will produce more of their own power, and breakthroughs in energy efficiency and battery technology could see people using less energy, but Ruigrok said the need for a stable grid will not go away.

“it could go as far as and Enmax controlling when your car charges so that not everybody in the street is charging their car at the same time,” he said.

Speaking to reporters after the AGM, Mayor Jyoti Gondek said being the shareholder of Enmax means the city will be able to work with the company as its prepares its climate strategy.

“We can make commitments all day long. But if we don’t demonstrate the actions that we need to take, we’re not really getting it right,” said the mayor. “So we have that work to do.”

Twitter: @brodie_thomas

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