EPCOR approved to bring natural gas to Southern Bruce



By Barb McKay


Natural gas is finally coming to the region and customers could be connected as early as fall 2019.


The Ontario Energy Board released its decision late Thursday to approve EPCOR’s proposal to distribute natural gas service in the Southern Bruce region. Municipality of Kincardine Mayor Anne Eadie and Huron-Kinloss Mayor Mitch Twolan met with media on Friday morning to formally make the announcement on behalf of the Southern Bruce Natural Gas Project committee. Arran-Elderlie Mayor Paul Eagleson was unable to attend.


“The board decided that since EPCOR is promising a lower total 10 year revenue requirement, as compared to that proposed by Union Gas, EPCOR is declared the winner of the competition,” Eadie said.


The effort to bring natural gas to the Municipality of Kincardine is now in its seventh year. The project was initiated back in 2011 with an ad hoc group that included PREDC and local businesses. The municipality invited Huron-Kinloss and Arran Elderslie to work with it to bring natural gas service to the broader region. Eadie said the municipalities looked at a number of options and ultimately decided to initiate a competitive process to find a natural gas distributor. They selected EPCOR in 2016.


“EPCOR is a municipally-owned company, a partner with the City of Edmonton, so that was really appealing to us,” Twolan said. “When we went out for that competitive process EPCOR really stood out during the interview process. The way they said they were going to come into our communities and work with people and the municipalities and get to know the landscape, you just knew they had the municipal background (and felt) it was important to engage with the citizens.”


“We are pleased with this announcement and have worked hard with the municipalities of Arran-Elderslie, Kincardine and Huron-Kinloss in recent years to bring natural gas to Southern Bruce,” EPCOR President and CEO Stuart Lee said in a statement. “We are proud to be part of the Southern Bruce regional community and look forward to being a contributing citizen.”


Representatives from EPCOR are expected to be in Kincardine this week to provide further details regarding the OEB announcement, how the project will move forward and costs. In a media release issued Friday, the company said it expects to apply to the OEB for Leave to Construct later this year. Public information sessions will begin soon and will continue over the construction period. EPCOR said it expects construction to begin in spring 2019 and the first customers will be connected late in the year. All customers within the three municipalities will have access to natural gas by 2021.


“If Southern Bruce had not invested in a comprehensive business case and had not pursued our competitive process we would not have been here today,” Eadie said. “On behalf of the three mayors, we would like to thank our consultant Mark Rodger from Borden Ladner Gervais. His expertise was crucial to this. We would also like to thank all our councils and all our staff from the three municipalities, the EPCOR staff and all the residents and businesses who have co-operated with us in this long journey to bring natural gas to our three communities.”


“The big winners are going to be our constituents. Now they have a form of energy to heat their homes that will save people a lot of money, and that is what this was all about,” Twolan said. “It’s been seven years. It’s been quite an experience. I can’t tell you how many meetings there were, how many trips to Toronto – but it’s all worth it as of yesterday.”


Earlier this month, the province announced that Southern Bruce would receive a grant of up to $27.73 million for natural gas infrastructure. Eadie said the three municipalities were competing with 50 rural communities for grants, but Southern Bruce the largest area seeking natural gas service and has done a lot of legwork.


“We were ahead of the curve, we had done our homework, we had excellent information for the government. The application process was easy for us because we had two studies and the one study from 2014 backed up the other study from 2012.”


As well as reducing energy bills for residents, the endeavour to bring natural gas to the three municipalities has been motivated by a desire to attract new business.


Natural gas is the biggest thing for restaurants and businesses to consider our area,” Eadie said. “’What, you don’t have natural gas? Well tell us when you have natural gas and we’ll consider it.’ For the business and commercial side, it will make a huge difference.”


The option for natural gas with also help local agricultural businesses.


“I had a call from a farmer last night who said, ‘thank you for all your hard work on natural gas,’” Twolan said. “Our farmers are at a huge competitive disadvantage.”