Over the first century of the electricity industry, utility companies largely faded into the background, becoming little more than a monthly bill that must be paid.

But with the introduction of electricity deregulation, the growing number of alternative electricity providers in the U.S. are looking more and more to become an active member of the communities that they serve.

Direct Energy, which was based in Calgary until its recent move to Houston, Texas, has continued its close association with the province of Alberta through the 2012 Alberta Volunteer Citizen of the year Award.

Given the emphasis Direct Energy puts on community involvement for its employees, the award looks to recognize the impressive volunteer work of people in Alberta. The winner of the award receives a $1,000 cash reward along with another $5,000 donated to their chosen cause. Another four semi-finalists will similarly receive a $1,000 donation in their names.

“It is no secret that Albertans take great pride in their remarkable volunteerism, and the volunteers we’ve met and recognized over the years through this program are a true inspiration,” Tanis Kozak, vice president and Canadian general manager at Direct Energy, said in a statement. “We all know someone whose work makes their community a better place to live, and we’re thrilled to have the opportunity to recognize some of those amazing contributions.”