When Algonquin Power & Utilities Corporation was founded in 1988 to develop and own generating stations in mostly remote regions of Canada, it was imperative to build and maintain strong relationships with the communities in which we operate — primarily through job creation, excellent customer service and contributing to the communities where we live.
This commitment to communities is a huge part of the reason why, over the course of 30 years, Algonquin has grown to become a diversified generation, transmission and distribution utility with more than $10 billion in assets.
Through our operating subsidiaries, we provide safe, reliable and affordable rate-regulated natural gas, water and electricity generation, transmission and distribution utility services to nearly 800,000 customers in Canada and the United States, via more than 54 generation and distribution facilities.
From our inception, we have approached business growth with a long-term view to creating value for our customers and communities through investment in long-lived, sustainable assets that are built for the future.
Our ability to build a portfolio of close to 1,500MW of wind, solar and hydroelectric generating capacity speaks to that commitment, as well as a drive to be leaders in the renewable energy space. With the power of more than 2,300 talented employees, we are well on our way to our goal.
Expanding our international presence
A few years ago, Algonquin’s board made the strategic decision to expand and diversify beyond our North American markets by seeking attractive international investment opportunities.
Our business model focused on seeking regulated utility and renewable energy investment opportunities offering stable and predictable returns, and selecting investments whose risk profile is generally consistent with our existing portfolio of assets.
As we learnt about Bermuda and Bermuda Electric Light Company Ltd, we grew confident that investing in Bermuda through Ascendant Group Ltd would be a great fit with Algonquin.
Bermuda’s excellent infrastructure, skilled workforce, people and culture were key factors in reaching that conclusion.
Belco is fortunate to have a talented and dedicated group of employees who have proudly built a power company over the past 115 years that is rated among the best in the world in terms of reliability and resilience.
We also saw a significant opportunity to help Bermuda attain its sustainability goals — a theme that is closely aligned with our strategic direction and corporate purpose.
Undoubtedly, the cost of electricity in Bermuda is high and we are confident that the combination of our expertise in renewable energy and the economies of scale achievable through our utility operations can be brought to bear to reduce this cost, while making Bermuda a leader in sustainability.
As a leader in the North American utility industry, Algonquin is committed to sustainability through the inclusion of social, economic and environmental values in our daily operations and business planning activities.
We will be imminently publishing our 2019 Sustainability Report using the Sustainability Accountability Standards Board framework.
The report provides an extensive overview of our programmes, performance and efficiencies that contribute to our ability to meet our sustainability goals.
The way forward
We have reviewed and embraced Bermuda’s first Integrated Resource Plan. Indeed, as I said publicly on a recent earnings call, the IRP was “music to our ears”, as this is exactly what we do: replace fossil-fuel generation with renewable technologies in a way that also creates savings for our customers.
To be very clear: we don’t believe that natural gas is the best fuel choice for Bermuda.
Our focus will be on integrating utility-scale solar and exploring the feasibility of offshore wind coupled with energy efficiency to steadily reduce Bermuda’s reliance on fossil fuels and reduce customers’ electric bills.
As an example of our commitment to using renewable energy to reduce customer costs, we received final approvals in June to proceed with the construction of three wind farms with installed capacity of 600MW located in Missouri and Kansas to allow shutdown of a coal-fired generating plant.
Construction of these wind farms is under way, with completion targeted by the end of 2020.
This investment of more than $1.1 billion will reduce energy costs for customers over the life of the projects, at the same time delivering other significant economic and environmental benefits.
We believe sustainability is not something we do; it’s something we are.
We also believe that our employees are our greatest sustainable competitive advantage.
Through our Passport Programme, our employees are encouraged to grow professionally by moving into roles throughout our company, broadening their perspectives and business knowledge.
The talented Bermuda team will be afforded the same opportunity to work and learn in our other businesses in the US and Canada.
We are also committed to diversity and inclusion, as without inclusion there can be no diversity, regardless of where our teams reside.
One of the things that excites us about investing in Bermuda is the opportunity for Algonquin to learn from the best practices undertaken by Belco and Ascendant.
We are very impressed with Belco’s plans to transition to all-electric vehicles, which we are seeking to replicate across our service territories by capitalising on Belco’s progress.
I want to assure the people of Bermuda that Algonquin is committed to investing in the island for the future.
We have a strong history of bringing new utility companies into our family and being a permanent contributing member of the communities we serve.
It’s a “live and give” local approach that is foundational to how we operate and, frankly, is a big part of our success.
Algonquin is committed to excellence in terms of the safety of our operations, providing an enjoyable customer experience, maximising employee engagement and a commitment to sustainability through inclusion, environmental, social and governance responsibility.
We are committed to building on the solid foundation created by the Ascendant board and look forward to being part of building a greener, cleaner Bermuda.
• Ian Robertson is the chief executive officer of Algonquin Power & Utilities Corporation