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​​​Edmonton City Council approved the transfer of the City's Drainage utility to EPCOR on April 12, 2017. This will bring all of Edmonton's water utility operations under one roof – water treatment and distribution, wastewater treatment, and sewer and stormwater collection. EPCOR is 100% owned by the City of Edmonton and will continue to be regulated by City Council.​​ ​


About the transfer

 

EPCOR proposal has "strong merit"

In June 2016 Council voted to study transferring its Drainage utility to EPCOR. City Administration hired Grant Thornton, an independent consultant, to review EPCOR's proposal. In its findings, Grant Thornton confirmed that EPCOR's proposal has "strong merit" and the "potential to bring benefits to the City, taxpayers, and ratepayers." Other findings include:

  • Lower Drainage rates with EPCOR in comparison to staying with the City
  • EPCOR has the financial strength to support the capital investment needed to address the City's growth, aging infrastructure and flood mitigation efforts
  • EPCOR will be able to increase and sustain an additional $20 million to the annual dividend. EPCOR will pay City a $146 million dividend for 2017.

EPCOR was created by the City in 1996 to deliver core utility services in Edmonton, build its expertise and grow its business. Since then, EPCOR has developed a strong competency in utility cost and project management and competes for projects across the North America.

​EPCOR and Drainage will be better together

Combining the technical expertise of Drainage employees with EPCOR's strength as a major utility services provider will reduce operating and capital costs – for the benefit of customers.

EPCOR will reduce Drainage operating costs by $5 million over five years. Coordination of work planning, safety performance, training, fleet and other areas would result in greater efficiency. EPCOR Water and Drainage have similar operations and if aligned, both would be more efficient over time.

EPCOR will reduce Drainage's capital costs by 10% each year by using our proven processes for the effective management of planning, design and construction of large-scale capital projects.

Grant Thornton confirmed EPCOR's ability to deliver on operational efficiencies and capital cost savings in their report.

Drainage employees

There will be no layoffs. We are committed to welcoming all Drainage employees to EPCOR with comparable salary, benefits and seniority. We take pride in being an employer of choice and a safe and healthy workplace is always our first priority.

EPCOR has engaged all three unions representing Drainage employees. We have provided responses to employee questions in the City Administrative Report and will continue to work in partnership with the unions and other employees to ensure a smooth transition.

Customers and taxpayers


The transfer will result in better outcomes for both customers and taxpayers. Customers will pay lower rates with EPCOR in comparison to staying with the City and taxpayers will benefit from EPCOR paying a higher dividend to the City.  The Grant Thornton Report has independently verified this conclusion.

Drainage under City of Edmonton (current) Drainage under EPCOR (proposed)​
  • Customer rate increases:
    • ​3% in 2017
    • 4.3% in 2018
    • 4.3% in 2019
    • 4.6% in 2020
    • 4.6% in 2021
  • City sets and approves customer rates
  • ​3% annual customer rate increase from 2017 through 2021
  • City sets and approves customer rates
  • Rates undergo an external audit to ensure that they have been calculated according to City bylaw

How will customers and taxpayers benefit?

Better outcomes for customers will result from operational efficiencies, lower capital costs and finding efficiencies in the delivery of support services.  City Council would continue to regulate rates and service levels just like it does for Drainage today. Edmontonians will have one provider for the City's entire water utility cycle. EPCOR already bills for Drainage services today so customers will see no change in billing.

Accountability


City Council will continue to have the authority to oversee all aspects of Drainage in the same way it does today. This includes approval of customer rates and full oversight of Drainage operating activities and capital plans, including those for flood mitigation.

EPCOR is commited to reporting fully and openly on Drainage to the Utility Committee like we do today for Edmonton's water operations. 

Drainage under City of Edmonton (current)

Drainage under EPCOR​ (proposed)

  • ​100% City-owned
  • City-operated
  • The Drainage Branch has touchpoints with three City departments - Operations, Integrated Infrastructure and Sustainable Development
  • Reports to the Utility Committee
  • City Council sets and approves customer rates, operational performance measures and targets
  • Operates under Council-approved fiscal policies
  • ​100% City-owned
  • EPCOR-operated
  • Drainage would operate alongside EPCOR's water distribution, and water and wastewater treatment operations
  • With the Drainage transfer, the City's entire water utility cycle would be under one roof
  • City's Utility Committee sets customer rates, operational performance and targets; City Council approves through bylaw
  • Reports to the Utility Committee
  • City Council determines how much EPCOR can earn on its investment in utility assets (rate of return)
  • EPCOR's financial results are disclosed to the public every quarter

How will EPCOR be accountable to the City?

City Council will have the same authority it does today to oversee Drainage operations. It will continue to regulate Drainage through its Utility Committee and move toward Performance Based Regulation (PBR), which is currently in place for Edmonton's water distribution, and water and wastewater treatment operations.

What is Performance Based Regulation?

Performance Based Regulation (PBR) is established under City bylaw and gives the City, as regulator, the authority to set and approve customer rates, as well as operational performance and service standards. EPCOR must meet targets set in these areas by City Council, or be penalized.

How does the PBR work for the City and its citizens?

As an example, today there is a PBR target in place for the number of allowable water main breaks in a year. There is also another standard that states a water main break must be repaired by EPCOR within 24 hours – from the time water is shut off – 93.7% of the time.

On customer service, those who interact with EPCOR are surveyed and asked to rate their experience. The performance target states that 74.9% of these customers must say they were "very satisfied" or "completely satisfied" with EPCOR. These are only a few examples of specific performance standards set in the areas of water system reliability, water quality, environment, customer service and safety. Similar standards are set for EPCOR's wastewater treatment operations at the Gold Bar wastewater facility.

How does a transfer affect Council's ability to make decisions about Drainage?

Through its Utility Committee, Council will still have the ability to make decisions as it does today. The PBR process is thorough, running over the course of several months and establishes rates over five years, as well as performance and service targets. EPCOR reports annually to the Utility Committee on its water operations and is proposing to report on a quarterly basis for Drainage.

During the process, Utility Committee members raise questions and concerns, and have full authority to change or establish priorities. This discussion takes place in a public meeting with EPCOR in attendance. A public hearing is also a part of the PBR process.

Transparency


EPCOR will operate Drainage in an open and transparent way. We currently engage stakeholders in many different ways, on many different things. We will align with the City's public engagement approach where there is opportunity. For example, we will participate in the City of Edmonton's Open Data initiative for Drainage.  

​Drainage under City of Edmonton (current) Drainage under EPCOR (proposed)​
  • ​Utility Committee meetings open to public
  • Opportunities for citizens to have a say through open houses, online engagement
  • Stakeholder engagement sessions
  • Regular customer communications
  • Open Data
  • Subject to FOIP (Freedom of Information and Privacy legislation)
  • Citizens have access to their Councillors
  • Citizens call into the City's 311 line
  • ​Utility Committee meetings open to public
  • Opportunities for citizens to have a say through open houses, online engagement
  • Stakeholder engagement sessions
  • Regular customer communications
  • EPCOR will participate in the City's Open Data initiative for Drainage
  • Access to information consistent with FOIP (Freedom of Information and Privacy legislation)
  • Citizens have access to their Councillors and to EPCOR
  • EPCOR has a single point of contact for Councillors when dealing with constituent issues
  • Citizens call into 24/7 operations that include customer service, water and power trouble, and emergency response

How will Drainage operations be transparent under EPCOR?

EPCOR's interactions with the City's Utility Committee are open to the public. During the Peformance Based Regulation (PBR) approval process and annual reporting, committee members (City Councillors) are provided with detailed information on all aspects of the operation and business. This same information is shared with the public.

For Drainage, EPCOR will appear at all Utility Committee meetings.

Will City Councillors still be able to address Drainage issues?

Yes – just as they currently do with power and water issues in their wards. EPCOR has a single point of contact for Councillors when dealing with concerns raised by individuals in their constituencies. This allows us to get information to them quickly and efficiently, so they are able to respond in a timely way.

How will Edmontonians know what's happening with Drainage?

EPCOR reaches out to customers in many ways to get feedback and provide information. We engage people through open houses, ongoing customer communications, and on major infrastructure upgrades or construction projects.

EPCOR has an Edmonton-based Contact Centre and provides customer service on a 7x24 basis to support power and water trouble, and emergency response.

EPCOR will participate in the City of Edmonton's Open Data initiative for Drainage.

Financial


The Grant Thornton report has confirmed that Drainage rates would be lower with EPCOR in comparison to staying with the City. It also found that
EPCOR has the financial strength to support the capital investment needed to address the City's growth, aging infrastructure and flood mitigation.

​Drainage under City of Edmonton (current) Drainage under EPCOR (proposed)​
  • ​$609 million of existing debt on City's books
  • $1.86 billion in capital costs forecast over the next 10 years
  • $1.07 billion in operating costs forecast over the next 10 years
  • Drainage does not provide an annual dividend to the City
  • ​$609 million of existing debt transferred to EPCOR's books plus all future capital requirements
  • $1.67 billion in capital costs forecast over the next 10 years. A savings of $185 million
  • $1.01 billion in operating costs forecast over the next 10 years. A savings of $53.5 million
  • EPCOR to provide $146 million dividend to the City in 2017
  • Dividend to increase by $20 million if Drainage transferred

How can EPCOR maintain rate increases and  service levels, and increase the dividend in the first year?

EPCOR can limit rate increases to customers by realizing operating and capital cost efficiencies. EPCOR's financial strength following a transfer of Drainage will give us the ability to increase the dividend by $20 million annually. The Grant Thornton Report provides more specific details on these topics and supports this conclusion.

While EPCOR cannot guarantee the dividend amount, it has never once decreased or suspended the dividend since it was created in 1996. Since that time, the dividend has increased from $62.3 M to $146 million annually.

Who is Grant Thornton?

Grant Thornton is an international assurance, tax and advisory firm. At the direction of City Council, it was retained by City Administration to provide an independent assessment of the Drainage transfer proposal. Grant Thornton concluded that the transfer of Drainage to EPCOR "has strong merit" and would bring benefits to the City, taxpayers and ratepayers.

Where can I read Grant Thornton's reports?

The reports can be found here and here.

Flood mitigation


EPCOR has the expertise to develop a comprehensive Stormwater Integrated Resource Plan (SIRP) that will set out clear timelines for system improvements to reduce neighbourhood flooding and its impacts. We believe the combination of Drainage employees' expertise and EPCOR's capital planning, procurement, execution and operational expertise will be stronger than if either chose to do it alone.

Working with City Council, EPCOR will engage communities extensively to establish priorities for implementing improvements in a timely and affordable manner.

​​Drainage under City of Edmonton (current) Drainage under EPCOR​ (proposed)
  • ​City-Wide Flood Mitigation Study identified areas at risk, future project planning 
  • Ability to accelerate Drainage's flood mitigation program
  • Complete more work for less money based on efficiencies created in Drainage operations
  • Develop a Stormwater Integrated Resource Plan (SIRP) that will involve significant engagement with the community and Utility Committee
  • The SIRP would build on the good work already completed by Drainage

How will EPCOR handle flood mitigation?

Drainage has made an excellent start on identifying the actions that could be taken to improve the stormwater handling capability of older parts of Edmonton. These areas are not designed to handle stormwater flooding events as well as new neighbourhoods.

The next step is to develop a comprehensive Stormwater Integrated Resource Plan that determines what improvements should be made first and then, where they should be made, in the coming years.  EPCOR has extensive experience in developing comprehensive long range integrated resource plans with community consultation. We look forward to the opportunity to combine our experience and expertise with that of Drainage employees to deliver an excellent and proactive SIRP for Edmonton.

When severe storm events and urban flooding do occur, like Drainage today, EPCOR is confident we can provide a timely and effective emergency response on a 7x24 basis that is fully coordinated with the City. We have proven this with our water and power operations.

Will EPCOR be eligible for government grants for flood mitigation?

Yes. As a 100% municipally-owned utility corporation, we expect that EPCOR would be fully eligible for the vast majority of government grants available. The City would still qualify to apply for grants for "dry ponds", which it will be retaining.