The Utilities Consumer Advocate (UCA) represents the interests of residential, farm and small business customers of electricity and natural gas at regulatory proceedings with the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC).
The UCA’s primary goal in regulatory proceedings:
The UCA aims to ensure that customers get their utility services at the lowest possible cost, consistent with reasonable levels of service. Because the costs of regulatory proceedings, including all approved legal and consultant fees for interveners, are paid for through customers' utility rates, it's important that Albertans receive good value for these costs (and all other utility operational expenses).
Our mandate is established in Schedule 13.1 of the Alberta Government Organization Act.
To effectively represent customer interests, the UCA has a Regulatory Affairs section with two groups: Market Policy and Analysis and Regulatory Operations.
Market Policy and Analysis
The UCA brings fact-based, well-researched positions to the government and industry in order to create policy changes that benefit customers. Best practices and regulatory proceedings in other jurisdictions help guide its recommendations.
The UCA also represents customers in forums outside the AUC, including:
- Collaborative Industry Discussion and Issue Resolution (CIDIR)
- Transmission Facility Cost Monitoring Committee (TFCMC)
- Alberta Electric System Operator (AESO) Business Review Process and market issues that directly impact consumers
- Tolls, Tariff, Facilities & Procedures Committee (TTFP)
- Government of Alberta working groups
The UCA reviews all applications brought before the AUC and participates in regulatory proceedings based on the following factors:
- Customers are entitled to reasonable levels of service
- Utility service providers are entitled to a fair return for their services
- Rates are applied consistent with who caused the particular cost.
What does the UCA ask when evaluating?
- Could the outcome of the proceeding have a direct impact on residential, farm and small business customers? How significant is the impact?
- Money involved
- Business practices affected
- Process oversight
- Has the UCA been successful in the past, and will the UCA be able to influence the outcome?
- Is regulatory intervention the most effective means to influence the outcome? Is there a policy approach that would be more effective (legislation, regulation)?
The UCA then reviews the utilities’ proposals in detail, challenges them if necessary, and presents alternative proposals. This is done through a quasi-judicial process of written questions and evidence, oral cross-examinations and submission of arguments and reply arguments. The AUC then weighs the information presented by all sides to make a decision that's both fair to the utility and its customers. The AUC publishes their findings, directions and decisions in a document called a Decision.
Interventions can result in changes to the methods utilities use to allocate costs. They may also result in changes to the various components on your bill, or even a redefinition of customer classes.
The UCA also intervenes in many other types of utility applications, such as debt and equity issues, changes to terms and conditions of service, and conditions for purchasing energy for Regulated Rate Option (RRO) customers and others to ensure that customers’ interests are protected.
The UCA reports on AUC decisions and its own activities before the AUC and courts of law. Find more information on Regulatory Reporting.