A Brand New Electricity Company has Come to Mississauga
If you’ve been seeing a brand new logo around town but haven’t experienced any changes to your electricity service, that’s because Enersource--the utility company Mississauga customers are distinctly familiar with--is now part of a brand new company that’s working to provide the same reliable service to a huge number of customers in the Greater Golden Horseshoe area.
Earlier this year, four successful electricity distribution companies came together to form the newly minted Alectra Utilities--a company that now serves close to one million customers. Back in January, Horizon Utilities, Enersource and PowerStream merged to form Alectra and, in February, Brampton Hydro was acquired and joined the fold.
“We’re a new company that’s in possession of 100 years of expertise,” says Eileen Campbell, VP of Customer Services with Alectra Utilities.
Based on the number of customers served, Alectra is actually the second largest municipally-owned electric utility company in North America, and it’s working to use the experience and resources to invest in new technology and bring customers even more innovative, reliable and cost-effective service.
The news about the merger is particularly timely, especially when considering concerns around energy costs and changing customer expectations. In terms of rates, electricity distribution companies in Ontario are accountable for about 20 per cent of the charges on customers’ bills. A utility with more resources can keep costs low by leveraging scale and expertise.
“By coming together, we’re able to reduce or eliminate redundant processes,” says Campbell. “For customers, this means bottom line savings. Also, as a larger entity we are in a better position to invest in innovative solutions.”
As for what prompted the merger, the four electricity distribution companies were looking for opportunities to grow their businesses and leverage what they had for the benefit of their customers and the communities they served.
“The electricity industry is changing around us and in order to keep pace with changing customer expectations, we have to make investments for reliability through upgrading our systems and using emerging technologies. We’re looking at our environmental landscape and what’s important to customers, so the changes are about being prepared for the future,” says Campbell.
So, what changes are Mississauga customers noticing right now?
“In Mississauga, the customers won’t see a lot of change right now,” says Campbell. “It’s the same people, the same great service and the same bill payment methods. What they’re seeing is the new name of the organization coming forward.”
The former Enersource office at 2185 Derry Road West is now the corporate head office for Alectra Inc.
“All signage at the head office building has changed as has the signage at the operations centre on Mavis Road ,” says Campbell.
Alectra is easing Mississauga customers into the change by utilizing what it calls a co-branded approach. For example, those who follow Enersource on Twitter for important updates on service may have noticed that the Enersource name is now attached to the handle @alectra_Sauga.
In the immediate future, customers will continue to pay their bills the same way they always have.
“On invoices, communications and on bank statements, they’ll see the name Alectra as well as Enersource,” Campbell says. “For now, people will continue to pay Enersource online. All other forms of payment can be made to Enersource or Alectra Utilities. . The telephone numbers that they call today continue to be the same.”
As far as costs go, Mississauga residents might have noticed that, thanks to the Ontario government’s Fair Hydro Plan (which came into effect on July 1), rates have decreased, and the average customer should now be seeing reductions of approximately 25% as compared to bills received earlier in the year.
So, what changes will customers see going forward?
“More reliability, more investment in innovation, more products and services, more self-serve functions and easier ways for customers to do business with us,” says Campbell.
The company’s mandate is actually quite simple: Alectra will be an energy ally.
“We’re essentially striving to be the energy ally that customers expect us to be, not just the provider of a service,” says Campbell. “We’ve positioned ourselves as being there for our customers. If a customer is considering the purchase of an electric vehicle in a year from now, we might be the company that is providing the charging station.”
Alectra will also help customers better manage their electricity usage and reduce their own costs accordingly.
"We’re bringing our systems together to include a whole series of additional self-serve options people don’t yet have access to,” says Campbell. “One thing we’re getting feedback on is the telephone interactive voice response system. If someone calls in with a question about a service issue, they’ll get that info through an automated message.”
Customers can also access online tools to: better understand Time-of-Use price periods and better control their costs by shifting high-energy usage (e.g. doing laundry) to off-peak times; view their electricity usage online; and access discount coupons for goods and services related to conservation.
“Customers can also learn about conservation and the benefits of changing over to LED lighting,” says Campbell. “More access to conservation programs helps people reduce their consumption.”
There will be mobile applications as well, which makes sense at a time when most people use smart phones for everything from banking to inquiring about services.
“More customers choose to do everything on a mobile, so that access to information anytime, anywhere, through any device will be available,” says Campbell.
This is something that Mississauga customers in particular appear to appreciate.
“Mississauga had one of largest uptakes of customers on e-billing systems, so adoption of new technology has already started,” says Campbell. “We’re doing everything we can to be ready when customers want additional services.”
While services may not seem different immediately, customers will start to see changes as time goes on.
“As we invest in infrastructure over the next 10-25 years, customers will see service reliability maintained or, in some instances, even improving. They’ll also see new products and services being introduced that are not available today.”
In the meantime, customers can continue to enjoy the services they’ve always appreciated, including electronic payments, retrieving information online, paperless billing and more. Alectra can also offer customers payment plans and connect them with other resources should they need to seek financial assistance.
“Vulnerable and lower-income customers can get credits from the Ontario Electricity Support Program, and we can assist them with that process,” says Campbell.
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