Commission Meeting recap 8-14-2018

Grant PUD staff proposes phase-in of Evolving Industry rate

Grant PUD staff proposes to phase in the new Evolving Industry Rate 17 over three years in graduated increments of 15 percent the first year, 35 percent the second year and 50 percent the third year. If approved, the first increase would begin April 1, 2019, commissioners heard Tuesday. (1:16 on the recording, pages 302 to 305 in commission packet)

Each annual percent increase will be calculated on the difference between what the evolving-industry customer is paying now (per kilowatt hour) and the higher, target rate.

For a customer who would otherwise be considered residential, with monthly energy use that averages 5,000 kWh, Rate 17 would increase the energy charge from an all-in rate of 4.9 cents per kWh to 13.7 cents per kWh.

For a larger customer, whose billing demand is 2 MW and a load factor of 92.5 percent, Rate 17 would increase the customer's all-in rate from 2.6 cents per kWh to 7.9 cents per kWh.

These rates factor in direct costs to serve these high-energy-use customers and the extra business risk they pose. Evolving industry customers are vulnerable to wide swings in the value of their products and the potential for state and federal regulation. They have an unproven ability to pay rates long term.

Rate 17 also ensures that these evolving industry businesses pay extra to help subsidize sustained, below-cost rates for "core customers" — residential, irrigation and small and medium business.

On top of the higher energy price, evolving-industry customers must pay up-front the cost of any extra lines, poles, transformers and other equipment needed to get them hooked up.

The phase-in proposal would include an annual rate re-analysis to maintain an accurate read on cost of service. Based on the analysis, which would include load growth within the evolving industry, the proposed rates could fluctuate over time.

Grant PUD Financial Analyst Jeremy Nolan told commissioners that staff prefers the three-year, graduated phase in over other options, because it limits rate shock for established crypto mining firms, while giving Grant PUD staff time to see how prospective evolving-industry customers respond to the new rate schedule.

If the new rate significantly reduced the demand for evolving-industry-service, risk to Grant PUD would also be significantly reduced, Nolan said.

Three owners or representatives of cryptocurrency mining firms Tuesday proposed alternative payment systems for commissioners to consider. Representatives from the Grant County Economic Development Council, the Port of Moses Lake and two members of the public expressed support for Rate 17, as proposed.

In other business, commissioners:

Reviewed proposed changes to Grant PUD's rate policy for wholesale fiber-optic customers. These changes will not impact homes and businesses that subscribe to basic fiber service. The changes include higher minimum monthly fees for service providers and a higher set-up fee for new service providers. (1:09 on the recording)

  • Minimum monthly fees: Service providers pay no minimum monthly charge for their first six months in business. They pay $1,000/month for months seven to 18 (up from $500), and $1,500/month for months 18 and over. These minimums will affect only two of Grant County's 17 service providers. All the others already pay well over these minimums.
  • Set-up fees increase from $500 to $2,000 with a security deposit of $2,500. This is a one-time payment for new service providers.

"We're sending a message that if you want to be a service provider on our network, we want you to be growing your business," Fiber Co-Manager Tom Stredwick said before the commission meeting.

The policy includes a new ELAN (emulated local area network) service. ELAN is an industry-standard product, sought-after by larger customers, such as cellular companies. See policy changes and pricing here, pages 2 through 10.

Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the changes at their Aug. 28 meeting at Grant PUD's Ephrata Headquarters.

Viewed the latest second-quarter spending and year-end budget spending forecast. Grant PUD is on target to come in $7.9 million under budget this year, despite $46.9 million in operations-and-maintenance expenses forecast to end the year 3 percent ($1.43 million) over budget. (1:50 on the recording)

Underspending in labor and capital should to be enough to keep the budget in the black, PUD Financial Planner Baxter Gillette showed commissioners. Direct labor costs of $68.5 million are forecast to end the year $111,266 under budget. Direct capital costs of $100.3 million are forecast to come in under budget by $9.2 million due mainly to seasonal rescheduling of work.

Grant PUD has a pattern of coming in near budget on labor, underspending on capital and overspending on operations and maintenance, PUD Financial Planner Baxter Gillette told commissioners. Grant PUD financial analysts will focus improving the accuracy of these forecasts during the upcoming 2019 budget cycle. Click here more detail and Q2 results, pages 11-25.

Commissioners will get their first look at a refined 2019 budget forecast in late September. Two public budget hearings will happen in October, with a final vote on the budget slated for Nov. 13.

-Approved the 2018 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP)

Every two years Grant PUD prepares an Integrated Resource Plan, which helps to provide a roadmap for how the utility will continue to provide reliable and low-cost electrical service to its customers over the course of the next 10-years. The plan also looks at substantial risks and uncertainties inherent to an electric utility.

After months of work by Grant PUD energy and financial analysts, the commission approved the proposed plan. The commissioners held a public hearing regarding the plan as well as a workshop. See pages 13-214 of Tuesday's commission packet and listen to commission audio which starts at 3:25:55 from Tuesday's meeting.

-Approved changes to the Customer Service Policy

Changes to the Customer service policy include clarifications and changes to correspond with Grant PUD's business processes. A list of changes can be seen on pages 216 to 301 of the commission packet. Audio begins at 3:28:15 from Tuesday's meeting

-Received reports about the following topics:

Next commission meeting: August 21, Ephrata Headquarters

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