On the End of Coop Energy

I have been a happy member and customer of Coop Energy for more than 20 years. The service has been great, the people friendly and helpful and, more than anything else, I’ve been happy to be able to purchase home heating oil from a cooperative enterprise.

And so I was dismayed to find, upon returning from vacation this week, that Coop Energy is no more: its assets have been taken over by Ultramar, which is a division of CST Brands, “the second-largest publicly traded fuel and convenience retailer in North America.”

Coop Energy Closing Letter

I’m not entirely sure I want to be a customer of Ultramar’s, and so yesterday I send an inquiry to the suppliers of home heating oil in Charlottetown – Kenmac, Island Petroleum, Bluewave, Irving and Ultramar – asking them about the services, their billing procedures, and, most importantly, their ownership structure.

So far the only company to respond has been Ultramar: I received a call this morning from a former Coop Energy employee, now presumably employed by Ultramar, from their New Brunswick office, offering to answer any questions or concerns I might have. She took great pains to reassure me that nothing would change: I would still call the same number, I would still be dealing with the same employees, the same discounts and rebates would apply.

My response was that while all of that might be true, from my perspective everything had changed, as Coop Energy was a coop and Ultramar is a branch of a large multinational corporation. She agreed that there wasn’t much she could do about that.

Of course it’s not like there’s anyone selling artisanal locally-produced home heating oil here in Charlottetown: they’re all dipping into the same well, so to speak. But I care about the way that businesses I purchase from are owned and operated, and home heating oil is by far and away the household expense I spend the most money on every year, so to the extent that’s it’s possible to exercise some influence through the kind of company I purchase from, I’d like to.  It can’t be a coop now, alas, but perhaps it doesn’t have to be a multinational either?

I welcome comments from customers of other providers here in Charlottetown (or from the providers themselves).


Andrew Morrow's picture
Andrew Morrow on October 23, 2015 - 06:35 Permalink

I have been a customer for years. I got a delivery Wednesday and made a point of asking the driver about his job. Yes he is keeping it, and even getting a week more vacation with Ultramar. He hopes he will be getting a new delivery truck as well since the one he is using suffers frequent breakdowns.
I too like the idea of co-ops, but unfortunately the economies of scale have killed them locally.

Andrew Morrow's picture
Andrew Morrow on November 17, 2015 - 04:38 Permalink

When I went in to pay the bill for the furnace oil delivery I asked the woman who took my payment when Ultramar would be taking the account over. She told me that CST had bought out the whole operation, presumably the Esso operation as well, and that deliveries and billings would continue as previously managed. So I guess the takeover is one of those behind the scenes business deals that is part of the bigger is better and globalization trend.

HYL's picture
HYL on October 23, 2015 - 10:28 Permalink

I've been a customer for Kenmack Energy for a few years until 2015; I was surprised they didn't reply as they've proudly told me that they were Island-own company. I also was a member for the Coop grocery store on Walker's Drive before Sobeys took it over. My family and I have tried everything we can to support Island-own agriculture supply (CSA) and other business, it certainly struck us hard that we're not able to use the services like Coop anymore. In Taiwan, there are very strong consumer-base alliances to lobby, unite and defend the public interests. We shouldn't take it, the disappearance of coop energy/store, lightly as it seemed to be.

Peter Rukavina's picture
Peter Rukavina on October 23, 2015 - 12:14 Permalink

Kenmac did follow up, yesterday, on Twitter, just after I called them.

I had a nice conversation with Blaine, and confirmed that they’re a locally-owned company with a local office in Charlottetown, and that I can talk to the owner if I ever need to.  So not a coop, but at least local.

I sent in my credit application yesterday.

Island Petroleum also followed up with a phone call this morning, and I told them that I’d chosen another provider.

Irving followed up with an email yesterday, but didn’t answer any of the questions I’d sent them, so I crossed them off the list.