Power Shift: Canadians buy Juneau electric company

Canadian power giant Hydro One will buy Avista, the parent company of Alaska Electric Light and Power, for $5.3 billion, it was announced Wednesday afternoon.

The resulting deal, which will close in the second half of 2018 (assuming regulatory approval), will make AEL&P part of one of the largest electric utilities in North America.

“Please understand that we would not enter into this transaction unless we were confident that Hydro One shared our culture, values and sense of commitment to employees, customers and community stakeholders; nor would we consent to this partnership without obtaining sufficient assurances that our local identity and connection to our communities would be preserved,” Avista said in a prepared statement.

In a press conference and joint statement Wednesday, the companies said no layoffs are planned and Avista will continue to operate much as it has before. Avista will keep its headquarters in Spokane, Washington, and “will continue to operate as a standalone utility in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Alaska.”

In a Q&A shared with company employees, Avista stated, “There will be no material impact to AEL&P. AEL&P will continue to deal directly with their employees and their local union.”

In a fact sheet, the companies stated: “This transaction will have no impact on Hydro One or Avista jobs or electricity rates.”

In an email to AEL&P employees, Avista Utilities president Dennis Vermillion said he will travel to Juneau on Monday to talk about the change.

Hydro One, with more than 5,500 employees, is three times as large as Avista, which has 1,700 employees.

While Hydro One has 1.3 million residential and business customers across Ontario, Avista has about 700,000 electricity and natural gas customers.

Hydro One, based in Toronto, is 49 percent owned by the government of Ontario. The company used to be majority owned by the government but has gradually been privatized under the leadership of Premier Kathleen Wynne, who has been criticized for the privatization drive.

Ontario Energy Minister Glenn Thibeault told Canadian reporters that the government was pleased by the acquisition.

“It is expected to deliver clear benefits for the company’s customers, employees and shareholders, including the people of Ontario, given the government’s position as the single largest shareholder in Hydro One,” said Thibeault.

Alaska Electric Light and Power, Juneau’s hometown power company, was sold to Avista in 2013.

Contact reporter James Brooks at james.k.brooks@juneauempire.com or call 523-258.

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