Commission meeting recap – Oct. 24, 2017

Load Growth

With the help of Grant PUD’s affordable rates and trusted reliability, the county continues to be an attractive location for business of all types. Recent expansion over a 10-year period ending in 2015, saw Grant PUD’s load grow by 63.5 percent to 590 average megawatts. Average annual growth during this time of 5.04 percent was more than 19 times the national average of 0.26 percent during the same period, according to historical data from Grant PUD and the U.S. Department of Energy. The need for future expansion doesn’t appear to be slowing. Over the course of the last few months Grant PUD has seen an unprecedented number of requests for new services.

This increased level of requests was the subject of discussion during Tuesday’s commission meeting on how Grant PUD can ensure they are positioned to addresses these requests while continuing to reliably serve existing customers. Some customers in the que awaiting service range from 3 to 100 megawatts of service. These requests, including both completed applications and initial inquires, would total approximately 640 megawatts of new service if fulfilled. This level of interest creates issues when looking at the available electric system capacity, infrastructure enhancements, rate design and policy issues. Addressing those topics will be a focus going forward as Grant PUD looks to responsively work to address these requests while also ensuring the reliability of service for existing customers. One new type of industry whose requests have grown in the recent months include the “Blockchain” and “Cryptocurrency” such as Bitcoin. Businesses within these industries use sophisticated computing systems that require high levels of energy.

In the end this is a favorable spot for the utility to be in. While the rest of the country struggles with flat or declining load growth, we are fortunate to see diverse industries expanding in Grant County.  The goal through this process is to set Grant PUD up to experience healthy growth for years to come that will benefit current and future customers.
Wheeling charge discussions continue: Grant PUD and a few members of the Quincy Irrigation District met on Tuesday to further discuss the cost of a proposed new “wheeling charge” – the cost incurred by using the transmission and distribution system to deliver energy – to the irrigation district. Grant PUD purchased transmission lines from Bonneville Power Administration decades ago, but agreed not to charge wheeling fees for 40 years. That 40-year agreement expired June 30, 2017. Initial analysis based on the cost of service shows the new wheeling fee would be just over $1 million a year. Grant PUD has been working under an MOU with Federal Bureau of Reclamation since June 30 as the irrigation district representatives and PUD discussed various aspects of the new wheeling rate. During Tuesday’s discussion the irrigation district requested that Grant PUD extend the current MOU until the end of 2018. The current MOU is set to expire at the end of the year. This extended timeline allows the irrigation district to work with the Bureau on how best to apply the wheeling rates to their irrigation district customers. Commissioners agreed to review the MOU and discuss the feasibility of an extension with Bureau.

In other business:

Revised Customer Service Policy and Fee Schedules Approved: Commissioners approved a proposal from staff to revise the customer service policy. The revisions included a few clarifications, corrections and changes that will allow the fee schedule and policies to better correspond to their business processes.  Included within these changes is the approval of a manual meter read fee for customers who prefer not to participate in Grant PUD’s Advanced Metering Program (AMP).  The approved fee schedule includes a one-time deactivation fee of $250.99 for those who wish to have the remote-read capability of their new meter turned off. Those who choose this option will also incur a monthly meter reading fee of $64.34 per month. The extra monthly charge for the manual read program covers the PUD’s cost to send a truck and a meter reader to the homes or businesses to continue reading the meter each month.

Support of the biological opinion of the Columbia River Power System: 97 percent of young salmon successfully make their way past federal dams on the Columbia River in part due to the biological opinion approved by NOAA Fisheries and implemented by dam operators. However in March of this year a District Court in Oregon directed federal agencies to undertake a comprehensive review of the hydro operations while encouraging federal agencies to include an analysis that incorporates the removal, bypass, or breaching of one or more of the four lower Snake River dams. Grant PUD Commissioners approved Resolution 8860 in support of H.R. 3144, which offers federal bipartisan legislation to create a solution to eliminate the unending litigation over the federal hydro system. H.R. 3144 would direct federal agencies to implement the current federal salmon plan known as the 2014 Supplemental BiOp. Without this legislation, federal agencies would be required to author a new 2018 BiOp without the benefit of new science and/or any public input.

Commission approves change order: During construction on the Rocky Ford to Dover 115kV line the Contractor (Summit Line Construction) had to mobilize their Hydrovac truck.  This type of machinery provides a “non-destrictive” method of digging by utilizing a pressurized water and vacuum system that helps safely expose underground infrastructure. The truck was needed to find a fiber optic cable Centurylink had an easement for. This was beyond the initial scope of the project and costs $30,954.82. The change order approves adding this total dollar amount to the overall project.

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