Alberta Affordability Minister Tasked With Lowering Cost of Utilities, Housing, Food

By Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart
Marnie Cathcart is a reporter based in Edmonton.
July 19, 2023Updated: July 19, 2023

EDMONTON—New Alberta Minister of Affordability and Utilities Nathan Neudorf has his marching orders from Premier Danielle Smith, and first on the list is making life more affordable for Albertans by lowering the cost of utilities, housing, food, and insurance.

The premier’s mandate letter from July 19 also tells the minister his role will include “pushing back against any federal regulation requiring a net-zero power grid by 2035.”

He is also instructed to develop and implement a comprehensive plan to achieve a carbon-neutral power grid by 2050, and ensure it remains reliable and affordable.

In a statement on July 19, the minister said the federal government’s plan of a net-zero grid will come at significant cost to Albertans.

“Alberta’s share of that will be much higher than our proportion of the Canadian population since we won’t be able to onboard stable base load renewables in such a short period of time,” said Mr. Neudorf.

The province intends to utilize small modular reactors, carbon capture, utilization and storage, and other emission-reduction technologies.

Affordability Measures

Affordability was a significant part of the United Conservative Party’s platform in the lead-up to the province’s May 29 election.

Mr. Neudorf has the mandate to review the province’s electricity pricing system with the goal of reducing transmission and distribution costs, and finding ways to improve operations of the Alberta Utilities Commission and the Alberta Electric System Operator to align with the mission to get to a carbon-neutral, reliable, and affordable power grid by 2050.

“As Minister of Affordability and Utilities, I am focused on ensuring we can provide affordable and reliable electricity for generations to come,” Mr. Neudorf said.

The minister has been asked to address the rising cost of utilities by looking at a potential phase-out of the regulated rate option for electricity, and by finding ways to protect consumers from spikes in energy prices.

The premier said Albertans need a “competitive range of provider choices” for electricity and natural gas, and requests that Mr. Neudorf work with other ministers “to address cost-of-living concerns for Albertans, with a specific focus on housing, utilities, food costs, and insurance.”

One of the minister’s tasks will be to coordinate with the ministers of the Treasury Board and finance to provide short- and long-term recommendations to improve affordability of home and auto insurance.

The premier has also asked Mr. Neudorf to work with the minister of Indigenous relations to help connect more First Nations and Metis settlements to power, gas, and internet services. He has been mandated to help the minister of seniors, community, and social services to develop plans for affordable home ownership and rental strategies. The premier said barriers to housing need to be removed for Albertans.

Among his other tasks, Mr. Neudorf is asked to collaborate with the minister of energy and minerals and minister of environment and protected areas to “develop strategic alliances with other provinces to deal with issues such as climate policy, electricity policy and federal intrusions into provincial jurisdiction.”