Just 12 years ago, the largest municipality in Ontario was created: south-west Ontario’s Chatham-Kent. The region is large—2,500 square-kilometres to be exact—and it was created through the amalgamation of 23 separate communities.
It was ten years ago that Chatham-Kent Energy was incorporated, serving electricity to 39,000 customers in Chatham-Kent, and 7,000 customers in the Township of Strathroy-Caradoc and Municipality of North Middlesex.
Chatham-Kent Energy offers more than just electricity to its customers. With a private investor, the utility is able to look at growth opportunities on a regular basis, according to Jim Hogan, President and CEO. Only three or four municipalities in Ontario have a private investor, so Chatham-Kent is unique in owning 90 per cent of the utility, while the investor owns 10 per cent.
Caring about community
Though the municipality is large, Chatham-Kent is still able to offer its customers person-to-person service, and prides itself on being a community organization that cares about its residents, as well as the environment.
“We’re able to offer that personal line of communication, because we’re somewhat rural, so we still have that small-town feel. Our partnership with our municipality and PUC has helped us with that,” Hogan explains. “We’re a strong supporter of our community. We do a lot to try and make it as easy as possible for our customers to use our product. When there are challenges for them, we try to give back, and invest in the community to make it easier for residents.”
Chatham-Kent Energy also prides itself on being a stable entity, and did not suffer any critical losses during the economic downturn—again, partly due to the stabilizing nature of its investor relationship. “We are a financially strong organization, and we still made all of our financial commitments during the recession,” Hogan beams. Chatham-Kent Energy did not lay anyone off.
Caring about conservation
Chatham-Kent is dedicated to conservation. It’s rare that an organization communicates a message that will ultimately make less money, but that is just how Chatham-Kent shows that its true goal is towards sustainability.
With the Ontario government’s recent announcement that by the year 2020, it will create, replace or conserve 25,000 MW of generating capacity, at a cost of approximately $25-$40 billion to electricity customers, Chatham-Kent Hydro launched a campaign to help customers use less power.
Keeping in step with its commitment to the environment, but also to providing cost efficient services to customers, Chatham-Kent Energy is one of the leading utilities to use Smart Meters. Chatham-Kent Energy undertook the largest Smart Meter pilot program in Ontario with 1,000 smart meters on a wireless network to transmit real time interval usage data back to the utility. The initiative, according to the utility “is having a significant impact on the government’s assessment of what types of Smart Metering systems should be installed in Ontario to meet their goal of deploying 4.2 million smart meters by 2010.”
“We’re bringing the message out to our customers, and giving them some tools so they can conserve some energy and save some money,” Hogan says. Chatham-Kent participates by promoting programs like the Great Refrigerator Round-up, the Smart Meter initiative, and now by rolling our time-of-use rates sometime this year.
“We’ve had our Smart Meter solution completely installed since 2007 for residential customers. So, by participating with 14 other utilities in Ontario, 1.5 million customers will have time-of-use rates for electricity,” he adds proudly. “We’re one of those utilities leading the charge.”
Chatham-Kent Energy has plans to leverage Chatham-Kent PUC’s Smart Meter program for water, by lending its infrastructure to the water utility. The organization is currently also in the process of integrating all of the smart meter data information into its GIS system, and into its outage management system, thereby collecting and analyzing Smart Meter information and taking the next steps to utilize it.
Chatham-Kent Energy also runs a children’s conservation program, run by a fictional cartoon team called the Power Saver Team. Hogan says that by running kids programs, the hope is that “by teaching the young, they learn [conservation] and bring it home and teach their family. Then that culture and environment will be there forever.”
Currently, Chatham-Kent is also working towards supporting renewable energy projects, including those in the solar and wind realms. With the community and their shareholder on their side, Chatham-Kent Energy should be able to continue its commitments to conservation and community, for years to come. Hogan says the utility will celebrate its monumental 10th anniversary in September, and will look forward to a future filled with progress by sharing their accomplishments and plans with the community in an open house.