Recap: Commission Workshop May 7, 2018

Monday’s commission workshop was a culmination of six months of research and analysis. The workshop occurred to provide commissioners with an in-depth look at how staff is proposing to address the influx of cryptocurrency firms interested in electrical hookups throughout Grant County.

Since just last summer, Grant PUD has obtained an unprecedented number of new service requests.  To date, the utility has received more than 125 new service requests totally more than 2,000 megawatts of electricity.  Approximately 75 percent of this interest is from Cryptocurrency companies. This type of demand forced Grant PUD to stop accepting applications for new industrial hookups until a solution could be developed. (Background discussion begins at 6:50 )

To address this situation, a new “Evolving Industry” rate class is being proposed. The workshop covered the details regarding the new rate class, including the following highlights: (Discussion begins 47:00 – pages 6-29 of the packet)

  • Developing a new rate – yet to be determined – that covers Grant PUD’s cost to provide electricity as well as include additional fees to cover any elevated risks evolving industries pose to other customers.
  • Implementing a policy that if the customer causes a cost, then they will bear a cost. Currently customers only pay for the capacity they request. This can lead to stranded costs for Grant PUD by customers underutilizing infrastructure. The new recommendation would require large customers to pay the full cost of any expansion efforts needed to support their load request. (For example: if a new substation needed to be built, the customer would pay for the construction of the entire substation even if they didn’t use all of its capacity. Staff is also exploring options to reimburse customers who pay for excess infrastructure capacity that would later be used by other customers.)
  • Initiating application fees for customers in the Evolving Industry rate class, as well as other industrial rate classes. Currently there are no application fees. By establishing a fee schedule based on the anticipated megawatt usage will allow Grant PUD to cover any upfront engineering and planning costs. The application fees will be based on a megawatt differentiator as defined in the presentation.
  • Creating a secondary waiting queue for evolving industry customers. Grant PUD would not process Evolving Industry requests for inclusion in this new customer class until all traditional customer applications are first addressed.

Details were also provided regarding the revamped guidelines for distribution and transmission infrastructure planning that are nearly complete.  (Discussion begins 1:52:05 – pages 30-34 of the packet)

  • Key elements of the guidelines include load limits for distribution equipment to ensure the system is operating at industry standards which allows staff to effectively operate and maintain the efficiency of the system.
  • The guidelines establishes a new transmission philosophy that the 230kv transmission system is the backbone of Grant PUD’s delivery operation. It provides parameters for how to best ensure redundancy throughout the system to better serve those with higher voltage loads.

Residential cryptocurrency operations were discussed in the workshop. Public safety is the number one concern with any home/small business cyrptocurrency operation.  It is also imperative that Grant PUD protects its equipment.  Energy services will monitoring loads that appear to show abnormal load factors that may potentially threaten Grant PUD equipment.  If a concern is discovered, Energy Services will contact the customer notifying them of their responsibility to replace any damaged equipment. If needed, the policy would allow the disconnecting of those customers that are posing a risk and to charge them for any costs needed to move them to their own dedicated equipment.  (Discussion begins 2:46:50 – pages 35-42 of the packet)

The workshop concluded with a review and discussion of the rate setting policy. With the purpose of that presentation to provide clarification on existing rate setting policies, and clarify how the policy has been applied. (Discussion begins 3:18:40 – pages 43-50 of the packet).

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