Enron Enters Alberta's Retail Markets; Is Ontario Next?

Enron Direct Canada Corp., a subsidiary of Enron Corp., announced last week that it has entered the retail electricity and natural gas markets in Alberta, targeting all commercial and light industrial businesses. This, it says, will give customers an alternative choice in the region at competitive prices.

Enron Direct said it will be able to provide predictable term pricing and a reliable supply of electricity and natural gas. It also said it has the ability to leverage off the well-established business of its affiliate, Enron Canada Corp., the largest wholesale buyer and seller of electricity and natural gas in Canada.

"We have the experience and commitment to give business consumers the price management necessary to reduce their financial exposure to fluctuating electricity and natural gas prices," said Rob Milnthorp, CEO of Enron Canada and Enron Direct. "Enron Direct is an alternative to the existing affiliated incumbents--something that Alberta businesses have been calling for," said Darren Cross, COO of Enron Direct.

Cross estimated that 100,000 customers fit into the commercial and light industrial segment of natural gas and electricity users in Alberta.

While Alberta's electricity market only opened up for competition in January, its gas market has been deregulated for years. Currently, Enmax Corp. in Calgary and Epcor Utilities Inc. in Edmonton hold a monopoly over Alberta's retail gas and electricity markets.

Rod Peterson, property manager for the Calgary Co-operative Ltd., said, "Enron Direct is assisting Calgary Co-op to control its costs in the power market by providing us with competitive pricing that enables us to better predict and manage our utility costs."

As for Enron Direct's next step after the Alberta market is set up, he said the future path is dependent on other provinces opening their markets.

"The initial focus for our business right now is the province of Alberta," Cross told NGI. "Other regions of Canada as they open for competition...we will definitely take a look at those particular regions of the country. Right now Alberta is the only province that is fully deregulated in both commodities, so it makes good sense that that is where we would start. Ontario is the likely next one."

Cross said Ontario's power market is expected to open up by May of next year, but presently, the company plans to focus on its entrance into Alberta markets.

Enron Direct said Enron Corp. has been using its business model to supply commercial customers globally since 1993.

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