Lacombe has sweetened the pot in a bid to generate more interest in the community’s electricity retailing partnership.
Through an agreement with Calgary-based Utilitynet, the City of Lacombe will receive a portion of the sales proceeds that will go into a fund for community projects when residents sign up with the power retailer through the Echo Energy program.
A modest goal of 250 customers was set for the first year, but so far only about 70 have signed up, well short of the 120 half-year target, said Guy Lapointe, Lacombe’s community and economic development officer.
“Initial response was really positive but we did get some feedback on ways to improve the program,” said Lapointe.
To lure more residents to switch from their current supplier, rates were lowered and a required $100 deposit for residents and $500 deposit from businesses was dropped.
As of June 1, the rate was dropped to 7.49 cents per kilowatt hour from 7.95 cents for residents and businesses. A special seniors rate went to 7.29 cents from 7.49 cents.
Lapointe said the energy retailing idea has been well received but switching energy retailers tends not to be high on people’s priority lists.
“Everybody I’ve talked to is encouraged and wants to get on board — but there’s no rush.
“What I’m trying to convey to people is the sooner they can make that switch, the better it is and then that money can roll back into the community and benefit community projects.”
Part of the city’s challenge is to remind residents that the money raised does not go into general coffers but to a specific fund for community projects. Both fixed and variable rates are available, another point of confusion for some.
Under the agreement approved by council last month, the city is responsible for marketing and signing up customers. The city will purchase power through Echo Energy, which will handle billing.
When the project was rolled out late last year, the city projected it would receive about $23,000 in profits based on 250 customers and an 11 cents kw/h rate, which is higher than current rates.