HRAI GTA Chapter tackles industry threats once again

(L-R) Peter Messenger and Martin Luymes explain the strategies to address Enbridge Sustain’s entry into the marketplace.

HRAI’s  GTA Chapter AGM and dinner, held November 28 in Concord, ON, saw attendance numbers not seen since the HVAC Coalition took up the cause of HVAC contractors to defend against inappropriate encroachments by regulated utilities.

The Coalition would later take on a watchdog approach but has recently been reincarnated as the Utility Action Committee.

The chapter addresses the current competitive climate in its event description: “The quest to address growing public concerns about climate change is resulting in new programs, policies, and regulations, many of which are helpful to the HVAC/R industry – provided industry has a say in them. It has also attracted some new entrants into the marketplace, including a new utility-backed company that is generating some serious concern from the industry.”

“As a utility offshoot and unregulated business within a regulated utility, Enbridge Sustain, which launched in December 2022, has its sights on the full scope of the HVAC/R marketplace. It has some distinct advantages that will allow the company to win over customers, as it has in the past,” explained Martin Luymes, HRAI vice president of government and stakeholder relations.

“The threat to the industry in Ontario is very real. Enbridge Sustain is about planning for a world without natural gas. The service cuts across the whole sector – Enbridge is looking to replace its core business,” added Luymes.

Following what was a very speedy AGM led by GTA Chapter chair Sanah Baxter of Canco (R), Women in HVACR Canada founding board members Daphne Fayle (L) of Wolseley and Nathalie Brooks talked about what Women in HVACR is involved with, including the planned launch of scholarships in the new year.

One advantage Enbridge has is common public perception that it is a publicly owned company, but it is not. It has shareholders and as such must find a profitable path forward in a gas-free world by leveraging the utility brand.

As several attendees at the meeting noted, the Enbridge Sustain video is appealing, in fact if they weren’t in the industry, they would be calling Sustain themselves to find out more. “It has a very appealing value proposition,” said Luymes.

Luymes and Jay Shepherd, energy lawyer and counsel for the HVAC Coalition, also discussed what steps are being taken to attempt to maintain a level playing field that ensures open and fair competition for all players. These include involving the Ontario Energy Board and the Federal Competition Bureau, direct dialogue with Enbridge, letters to MPPs, and finally, raising industry funding of $100,000 in the next several months. HRAI GTA has set out a sliding funding scale based on company type and size.

“If we do nothing, we don’t have a bright future,” said Peter Messenger, chair of the utility action committee and third-generation owner of A1 Air Conditioning & Heating in Oakville, ON. He and other contractors encouraged attendees to become involved.

Contact Martin Luymes for more information at [email protected]

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