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In defence of a possible merger

Dear Editor,

As the Chief Executive Officer of Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation (OPUC), one of the three parties involved in the potential merger of Veridian, OPUC and Whitby Hydro, I wish to provide clarity and facts to address the recent editorial entitled “OPUC process far from clear” and the subsequent article, “Group pushes for referendum on any OPUC decision.”

First and foremost, this is a “potential” merger of three leading municipally-owned utilities, not a sale, with a “potential” merged entity being owned by six different municipalities. This is an exploratory phase only to determine if there are real, tangible benefits to be realized. Retaining 100 per cent municipal ownership is the basis under which the exploration is being conducted. Secondly, and perhaps most importantly, this evaluation process will not be taken lightly. A merger will only result if we can build a strong business case to our customers and respective councils. That business case must demonstrate that a merger would preserve local ownership, increase efficiencies and innovation for the benefit of the customers, maximize shareholder value and meet or exceed customer service levels.

The next question is, why explore a merger at all? It all comes down to the simple notion that the whole can be greater than the sum of its parts.

Utilities across the globe must grapple with new forms of competition, changes in customer expectations and behaviors, pressures from regulators and of course, economic realities.  Like never before, in the face of disruptive technologies and complex regulations we as utilities are challenged to meet the highest levels of quality, reliability and customer’s needs—while also required to drive efficiencies to keep rates stable and affordable.  I believe that together the utilities in the Region of Durham can be stronger to take on these challenges and realize the opportunities for the benefits of our customers and the communities we serve.

But before any of that can be realized, the business case must prove to be sound.

We know there are and will be questions that will need answers. Together, we have put a system in place to provide the required answers once we have them. The microsites created are meant to be “living sites” – they will be updated when we have more concrete answers to deliver.

There will also be open houses beginning as early as mid-June. There will be time to support us, or time enough to challenge us. I reiterate no decisions have been made to merge other than to do our job of evaluating options to better serve all of our stakeholders.

With three decades of experience in various industries, I can assure you that the business case for utility consolidation in Ontario is sound.  It behooves us to explore it and make sure it is in the best interest of all of our stakeholders; our customers, our employees and our shareholders.

Atul Mahajan

CEO of Oshawa Power and Utilities Corporation