Bluewater Power returned more than $3 million to Sarnia in 2023

Bluewater Power returned more than 3 million to Sarnia in

Sarnia received a record amount of more than $3 million from Bluewater Power in 2023, the electricity distributor’s chief executive says.

Sarnia received a record amount of more than $3 million from Bluewater Power in 2023, the electricity distributor’s chief executive says.

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“Just when you think it couldn’t get anything better it does,” Janice McMichael-Dennis said.

Sarnia, the 86-per-cent majority municipal shareholder in the company, received more than $2.8 million in 2022.

Altogether municipal shareholders, including Sarnia, Petrolia, Point Edward, Warwick and Brooke-Alvinston, split $3.5 million in 2023McMichael-Dennis said, up from about $3.3 million in 2022.

“We have this consistent trend of (surpassing) the year before,” she said, stressing it wasn’t done on the backs of ratepayers.

Average residential bills in 2023 were about $118, compared to $113 in 2022, and they’re about $123 in 2024, she said in a recent presentation to Sarnia city council.

Consolidated net income before taxes in 2023 was $8.1 million, she said.

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About 87 per cent of customers say they’re satisfied or very satisfied with Bluewater Power, she said.

“I always say that when you can be known to most people as the hydro bill. . . and to get 87 per cent satisfaction rating, that’s pretty darn impressive,” she said.

The money returned to Sarnia is about $100,000 more than Sarnia budgeted for in 2023 and is on par with the city’s 2024 expectations.

Without the revenue from Bluewater Power, city taxes would have to rise about four per cent, McMichael-Dennis said.

“We are really pleased to have an investment here which directly offsets municipal taxes for our municipal owners,” she said.

Bluewater Power CEO Janice McMichael-Dennis (center) addresses Sarnia city council via Zoom June 3, 2024. (Screenshot)

Along with the utility, Bluewater Power owns four other companies – Bluewater Regional Networks, Bluewater Power Renewable Energy Inc., Bluewater Power Services Corp. and Electek Power Services that also has offices in London and Sudbury.

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“That’s especially important when you can take dollars from outside your community and bring them into your community,” McMichael-Dennis said.

Bluewater Power also invested $11.8 million into local utility infrastructure in 2023, she said, including new poles and wires and transformer and technology upgrades.

“Again, to improve overall billing reliability, to improve outage response management,” she said, noting the utility’s grid reliability is 99.98 per cent.

Hitting 100 per cent is possible, but would require bills to increase exponentially, she said.

“So we are walking that line of responsibility, by saying how high can our power reliability be while maintaining just and reasonable rates to our end-use customers.”

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Sarnia city council approved the reappointment of Bluewater Power’s board recently after being briefed on the financial update.

Coun. Bill Dennis, who is married to McMichael-Dennis, declared a conflict and didn’t vote.

The board is down one member, to six, after the recent retirement of longtime director Steve Bolt, McMichael-Dennis said.

Six is ​​the normal size for the board, but sometimes there’s a seventh member for succession planning purposes, she said.

“In our industry, to bring a director on board it is literally five years before that director is comfortable in their seat,” she said.

The remaining board members have the needed skills for oversight, she said, so a replacement for Bolt wasn’t needed.

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