ABmunis successfully defends municipal rights in AUC proceeding on streetlights

Last week, the Alberta Utilities Commission (AUC) released its decision on how the refund for streetlight investment in new developments is to be directed.

First proceeding

In late 2021, Fortis Alberta filed an application with the AUC about how the refund for streetlight investment was to be directed in new developments. Fortis’ Terms and Conditions were unclear on how this refund should be directed.

Alberta Municipalities partnered with the City of Airdrie to ensure municipalities continue to receive funds for streetlight investment. We registered as an intervenor in this proceeding because the issue clearly affected many municipalities. We developed a submission outlining our position that municipalities should direct how this investment is refunded and were given an opportunity to provide comment on other intervenors’ submissions.

Some intervenors argued that refunds should be directed to developers as opposed to municipalities. The AUC reviewed these documents and, on July 11, 2022, ruled that the streetlight investment refund should continue to be paid to municipalities.

Second proceeding

A subsequent proceeding was initiated to consider the issue of residential maximum investment levels (MILs) in greenfield developments (AUC Proceeding 27658). As part of the proceeding, the issue of streetlight refunds was included. This time, all four of Alberta's electric distribution utilities were involved.

Alberta Municipalities once again partnered with the City of Airdrie to participate in this proceeding. The goal was to ensure that the AUC's previous ruling would not be contested and would also be applicable to all municipalities in Alberta. ABmunis argued that as the customer, the municipality should decide how the municipality directs the streetlight refund. Some municipalities provide the investment to developers as they install the streetlights in new developments, while others retain it to offset the utility bills for the streetlights.

AUC's decision

In Decision 27067-D01-2022, the Commission determined that the streetlight MIL should be paid to the municipality, or as directed by the municipality, in such instances of dispute. In its ruling, the AUC stated: “The Commission considers the arguments provided by the Municipalities to be persuasive and finds that the municipality in which new street lights are installed and operated is entitled to receive the corresponding MIL.”

While it is difficult to calculate the benefit of this ruling to municipalities because it is based on the number of new fixtures installed in a given year and location, preliminary analysis from our legal counsel estimate that this will result in approximately $10 million dollars being returned to municipalities in the next three years. The largest beneficiaries of this ruling will be municipalities experiencing growth and significant residential development. This decision will help them offset the pressure rapid growth can place on the existing tax base.

Advocacy 'win'

We are pleased to share this advocacy win with members, and we would like to recognize our partnership with the City of Airdrie. We are also grateful for the expertise of other members who helped secure this victory for all municipalities in Alberta.