CALGARY - Canadian Utilities Ltd. has asked the Alberta Utilities Commission if it can defer compulsory electricity and natural gas distribution rate increases set to come into effect at the start of the new year.

Canadian Utilities owns both Atco Gas and Atco Electric.

If approved, the company says the plan would keep the distribution rates on hold for more than 1.2 million customers in the province.

Canadian Utilities says the move would help support families and businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic and collapse in oil prices.

The Alberta Utilities Commission regulates the province's utilities sector.

Canadian Utilities has a presence in more than 300 Alberta communities.