Yukon Energy and ATCO Electric Yukon will not be cutting off power to customers who cannot pay their electricity bills during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The utility providers made the announcement, effective immediately, on April 6.
Neither is waiving fees; instead, they’re offering to work out individualized payment plans for both residential and business customers who are having trouble covering the cost of keeping the lights on.
“If anyone out there is having issues or is concerned about their bills, they definitely should be giving us a call,” ATCO Electric Yukon manager Bill Cullen said in an interview April 7.
“It gives us an opportunity to discuss options with them and it also allows us to know they have reached out so we can make a note on their account that they’ve contacted us and they are having some issues because of COVID.”
In a separate interview, Yukon Energy president and CEO Andrew Hall said the two companies have unofficially had the no-disconnecting policy in place for about two weeks, explaining that usually, Yukon Energy would look at cutting off power after more than two months of non-payment.
“We know that both some households and businesses in the Yukon are in pretty tough times right now, you know?” Hall said.
“There’s been layoffs in the service sector and some businesses have closed or cut back operations so we sat down with ATCO … in light of COVID, we’ve just decided to, you know, waive or just not follow that practice, so we won’t be disconnecting customers for non-payment at this time.”
He added that under normal circumstances, Yukon Energy still tries to work with customers having difficulty paying their bills and decides whether to cut power off on a case-by-case basis.
Hall, meanwhile, said he couldn’t recall ATCO having ever taken a measure to this scale before.
Both Hall and Cullen said their companies have already started heard from customers worried about payments.
“We just want to work with our customers and come up with a solution will work for everyone involved, whether it means setting up a payment plan over a number of months or deferring a payment … Whatever, basically,” Cullen said. “We can work with them to make it less impactful.”
ATCO and Yukon Energy, according to Cullen, are taking direction from the Yukon government and chief medical officer of health, and the measure will stay in place until the companies hear that the COVID-19 situation has changed.
Hall and Cullen said it was too early to say whether COVID-19 has had an impact on residential electricity consumption, with a number of people now working from home and children home from school, although Hall noted commercial use is down — not surprising, he said, as many businesses have closed or moved to reduced hours.
People who are having difficulty paying their electricity bills can contact ATCO at 867-633-7000 or Yukon Energy at 867-993-5565 to set up payment plans.
Contact Jackie Hong at firstname.lastname@example.org