Council votes to explore options to merge Guelph Hydro with other publicly-owned utilities

Guelph, Ont., February 16, 2016 – Last night, City Council directed Guelph’s Strategies and Options Committee to explore the marketplace and learn how maintaining full ownership of Guelph Hydro compares with opportunities to merge with other publicly-owned utility companies. Council decided not to explore options to sell Guelph’s local electricity utility company.

The committee will conduct further research to establish the market value of the City-owned asset, and determine if a merger could help Guelph’s local electricity distribution company build the technical and financial capacity needed to address future challenges in Ontario’s electricity sector.

During last night’s meeting, the Strategies and Options Committee presented the results of several community engagement activities including a telephone poll, online survey, public open houses, stakeholder and customer outreach, and meetings with community organizations. Community engagement activities focused on the decision-making criteria being used to evaluate potential changes to the ownership structure of Guelph Hydro, and the committee will continue engaging the community during the next phase of the project.

The committee’s presentation also highlighted Guelph’s Hydro’s reputation for great service and value, explained several challenges facing electricity utilities, and suggested that now is the time to prepare for future challenges in Ontario’s electricity sector.

“Guelph has a strong, stable utility company with a solid reputation. That gives us an advantage when exploring opportunities in the market place. We want to make sure we keep delivering the service and reliability customers in Guelph and Rockwood have come to expect,” said Derrick Thomson, Chief Administrative Officer, City of Guelph, and co-chair of the Strategies and Options Committee.

Challenges in the electricity sector

According to the committee’s research, utilities in Ontario are under pressure to mitigate increases to electricity distribution rates while meeting increasing regulatory requirements, maintaining and building new energy infrastructure.

Committee members went on to explain how advances in energy technology and changing consumer behaviour create even more challenges for small and mid-sized utilities like Guelph Hydro. For example, in the years ahead, residents and businesses will expect modern, competitive electricity prices and services similar to those available in other, larger cities such as:

  • Smart-home and smart-grid capabilities
  • Small-scale distributed generation
  • Local renewable energy generation
  • Electric vehicle charging stations

“The question facing Guelph Hydro is not whether a change is required, but what form it will take and how quickly do we need to adjust our approach,” said Robert Bell, Board Member, Guelph Hydro Electric Systems Inc. and member of the Strategies and Options Committee “As more people generate their own electricity, choose electric vehicles, use smart-home technologies to manage their own energy use, the role of a local electricity utility must evolve from a traditional ‘poles and wires’ electricity delivery company.”

The Strategies and Options Committee expects to present its findings to Guelph City Council in mid-2017.

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Media contact

Tara Sprigg, General Manager
Corporate Communications and Customer Service, City of Guelph
519-822-1260 extension 2610
tara.sprigg@guelph.ca