Believing that ratepayers would benefit from the move, Ontario’s energy minister is supporting a proposed merger between Entegrus Powerlines and St. Thomas Energy.
Speaking at Entegrus’ headquarters in Chatham on Monday, Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault said the Ontario Energy Board still needs to approve the merger, but added that combining resources and expertise can only help the organizations involved.
“We’ve seen these reports that show that mergers will benefit, not only the councils and the ratepayers, but also benefit the utilities,” he said. “I don’t have a problem supporting that. We’re asking for more and more of this to happen.
“(But) we’re not forcing this to happen. If you go back over 10 years, there were over 300 and change utilities in the province. Now we’re below 70.”
Thibeault said a 2012 report on the energy distribution system suggested 12 utilities for Ontario. However, he stressed the government isn’t pushing for that number.
“We’re not saying that we want 12. We’re saying we just want synergies to happen right across the province that will bring forward the efficiencies that we’re hearing about today.”
If approved, the proposed merger between Entergrus Powerlines and St. Thomas Energy is expected to be completed in January of next year.
Jim Hogan, Entegrus president and chief executive officer, said the utility is looking forward a successful result.
“It’s something that we’ve worked really hard on doing,” he said. “Now we just have to go through the process with the Ontario Energy Board, and there’s a lot of steps there, but we think we have the right message and right application.”
Over the years, Entegrus has also acquired Middlesex Power Distribution Corporation, Newbury Power and Dutton Hydro.
With the addition of St. Thomas Energy, the merged utility would become the 11th largest utility in the province, serving approximately 58,000 customers in Southwestern Ontario.
The utility would be majority owned by the Municipality of Chatham-Kent, followed by the City of St. Thomas. Corix would continue to be a minority shareholder.
Rob Kent, St. Thomas Energy’s chief operating officer, said mergers can sometimes make people uneasy, but believes the change would be a positive move to help the utility better respond to industry trends.
“We’re of a like mind with similar goals, similar values and similar strengths in customer service and community focus,” he said.
Chatham-Kent Mayor Randy Hope said the municipality has been a leader in renewable energy and believes reliability to consumers is a key focus.
He said the proposed merger would make both companies more resourceful in the coming years.
St. Thomas Mayor Heather Jackson said working together would help deal with new and evolving needs.
“This merger will allow us to serve our communities with new, innovative technologies, with the taxpayer in mind,” she said. “We will be able to pool our resources and expertise to find synergies, allowing us to efficiently and effectively upgrade technologies and services.”