Former Red Deer man now a strong proponent of renewable power
As a business owner and chartered accountant, Charlie Bredo is keenly aware of the importance of a healthy bottom line. But the former Red Deer resident also has a green side, which helps explain why 20 per cent of his profits are donated to environmental initiatives, and why he’s a proponent of renewable power.
Bredo owns Bow Valley Power, a Canmore-based electricity retailer that’s among the handful of small companies in Alberta that compete against the likes of Enmax and Direct Energy. Operating for about two years, Bow Valley Power now serves customers in 85 markets, including Red Deer.
Not surprisingly, Bredo’s local customers include his brother Kevin, who owns The Medicine Shoppe Pharmacy, and his father Lance, an orthopedic surgeon.
“He was my first customer,” said Bredo of his father’s support.
But Bow Valley Power has attracted more than just members of the Bredo clan in Red Deer. Berry Architecture & Associates is another customer.
Bredo pointed out that his company’s price per kilowatt hour is actually lower than its bigger competitors, which have higher overhead and hedging expenses.
“We don’t do the hedging,” said Bredo, who is Bow Valley Power’s only staff member. “We just have a floating rate.”
The other thing that distinguishes the Canmore company is its focus on environmental sustainability. It contributes 20 per cent of profits to organizations like the Alberta Conservation Association and the Biosphere Institute of the Bow Valley, has been certified through the EcoLogo environmental standard program, and sells green power to customers who want it.
The source of that green power is a biomass facility at Whitecourt, although Bredo said he also has access to other biomass- and wind-generated electricity.
The premium to buy green power is about $10 a month for residential customers, he said.
“Which is less than a coffee a day.”
Customers who generate their own power through facilities like solar panels can earn a micro-generation credit of 15 cents for every kilowatt hour of electricity they feed into the power grid. That compares with the 8.55 cents that Bow Valley Power currently charges for the same quantity of electricity flowing in the other direction.
Bredo acknowledged that some people have a difficult time associating a power retailer with environmental stewardship. But he said his company’s philosophy mirrors his own.
“The environment has always been important to me.”
After growing up in Red Deer and graduating from Notre Dame High School, Bredo earned a business degree from the University of Alberta and then went to work for accounting firm Deloitte in Calgary. He eventually earned his CA designation, but also became interested in the retail electricity industry.
“But I wanted it to be a green company,” he said, “and I wanted it to be unique and different, and something more than just a necessary evil for people.”
His objective has been to push for more responsible ways to produce and consume power.
“I’m not saying shut down all the coal plants, but I’m saying let’s find better, unique ways — because going froward we can’t rely on coal forever.
“We can’t stop the fact that we’re going to need more power; we can try to influence the quality of the power.”
That means a push for not only more renewable power, but renewable power with a minimal environmental impact. Hydro energy may not produce a lot of greenhouse gasses, he explained, but if a river had to be damned and a large area flooded to produce that power, it’s still not an environmentally responsible choice.
From a consumer perspective, he added, the best option is to simply use less power.
“You don’t leave your car idling unless you need to. So why would you leave your lights on, unless you need to?”
Bredo said one of his biggest challenges is educating the public about the electricity market and that they have choices.
“Most people don’t understand power.”
Additional information about Bow Valley Power can be found online at www.bowvalleypower.net.