Approximately 19% of Superior's Canadian propane distribution business employees are unionized and 5% of U.S. refined fuels distribution business employees are unionized. Collective bargaining agreements are renegotiated in the normal course of business. While labour disruptions are not expected, there is always risk associated with the renegotiation process that could have an adverse impact on Superior.
Fixed-price energy services business
There may be new market entrants in the energy retailing business that compete directly for the customer base that Superior targets, slowing or reducing its market share.
Superior Energy Management (SEM) purchases natural gas to meet its estimated commitments to its customers based on their historical consumption of gas. Depending on a number of factors, including weather, customer attrition and poor economic conditions affecting commercial customers' production levels, customer natural gas consumption may vary from the volume purchased. This variance must be reconciled and settled at least annually and may require SEM to purchase or sell natural gas at market prices which may have an adverse impact on the results of this business. To mitigate potential balancing risk, SEM closely monitors its balancing position and takes measures such as adjusting gas deliveries and transferring gas between pools of customers, minimizing imbalances. The reserve is reviewed on a monthly basis to ensure that it is sufficient to absorb any losses that might arise from balancing.
SEM matches its customers' estimated electricity requirements by entering into electricity swaps in advance of acquiring customers. Depending on several factors, including weather, customers' energy consumption may vary from the volumes purchased by SEM. SEM is able to invoice existing commercial electricity customers for balancing charges when the amount of energy used is greater than or less than the tolerance levels set initially. In certain circumstances, there can be balancing issues for which SEM is responsible when customer aggregation forecasts are not realized.
Fixed-price energy services resources its fixed-price term natural gas sales commitments by entering into various physical natural gas and US dollar foreign exchange purchase contracts for similar terms and volumes to create an effective Canadian dollar fixed-price cost of supply. Superior transacts with nine financial and physical natural gas counterparties. There can be no assurance that any of these counterparties will not default on any of their obligations to Superior. The financial condition of each counterparty is, however, evaluated and credit limits are established to minimize Superior's exposure to this risk. There is also a risk that supply commitments and foreign exchange positions may become unmatched; however, this is monitored daily in compliance with Superior's risk management policy.
Fixed-price energy services must retain qualified sales agents in order to properly execute its business strategy. The continued growth of fixed-price energy services is reliant on the services of agents to sign up new customers. There can be no assurance that competitive conditions will allow these agents to achieve these customer additions. Lack of success in the marketing programs of fixed-price energy services would limit future growth of cash flow.
Fixed-price energy services operates in the highly regulated energy industry in Ontario and Quebec. Changes to laws could impact this business' operations. As part of the current regulatory framework, local delivery companies are mandated to perform certain services on behalf of fixed-price energy services, including invoicing, collection, assuming specific bad debt risks, and storage and distribution of natural gas. Any elimination or changes to these rules could have a significant adverse effect on the results of this business. Fixed-price energy services also markets electricity in Pennsylvania and New York State and natural gas in New York State only. The regulatory environment in Pennsylvania is favourable to retail choice. The Pennsylvania Utility Commission's Retail Market Investigation focused on solutions to increase retail market share and included orders for utilities to investigate retail opt-in auctions to entice customers to consider retail choice, reduce enrolment timelines, implement retail referral programs and design seamless moves that would reduce churn as a customer moves or changes accounts.
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