Whether or not to get an energy contract can now be added to the list of things that students living on their own need to worry about. All energy market deregulation has created new choices for energy consumers. The first of these choices is to pay the Regulated Rate Option, which is a fixed price. The second is to sign a contract, which allows the consumer to pay the same rate every month for a fixed number of years.
Many students may think it is safer to go with a contract, but as the Alberta Liberal Opposition warns, they must be educated before they make a choice. Flyers have been spotted around the university warning students about the risks involved in signing an energy contract.
"The goal [of the flyers] is to inform students what can happen if they sign a contract," said Josh Stewart, Media Liaison for the Alberta Liberals. The flyers warn students to first of all make sure that a contract is right for them and then to read the fine print and watch out for hidden charges and cancellation fees.
Enmax offers both three and five year contracts, while a newer company, Direct Energy Preferred, offers them for one, three or five years. Since many students only live in their residence for the length of the academic year, this makes them vulnerable to energy marketers. This could hurt students as they would be contractually bound to a company and could be required to pay the remainder of their contract, even if they were not at the same address.
On the other hand a contract could also benefit students by offering them the stability that their rate would not fluctuate from month to month.
Donna McColl, Assistant Director of Communications in the Alberta Ministry of Energy, did not warn against energy contracts, as the Liberals did, but said that it is a personal choice.
"Each student would have to decide what is best for them," she said.