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Commission Recap 04/23/19, Fiber network continues expansion and subscriber growth

The release schedule for access to Grant PUD's fiber-optic network in 2019 is out. During Tuesday's commission meeting, Senior Manager of Wholesale Fiber, Russ Brethower reported to commissioners that construction is either progressing or scheduled for each of the nine pre-determined areas set to receive access this year.

The off-island Crescent Bar and Trinidad areas, the first in the order of this year's build-out sequence, is already accepting applications. Residents will be online by May 31. Release dates and timings for when customers can submit applications for each of the new locations set for 2019 expansion is now available on www.grantpud.org/getfiber.

During Tuesday's commission meeting, PUD commissioners continued their emphasis of wanting to see new hook-ups continue to increase, especially in the new access areas.

"The last thing I want to do is to go to these areas and have no takers." Said Commissioner Schaapman.

Grant PUD's marketing efforts are targeting these expansion areas as well as other portions of the county whose "take-rates" are below 50 percent.

Year-to-date, the network has grown by 639 subscribers. That is on pace to achieve the growth necessary to attain the goal of having a network-wide take-rate of 56.5 percent by the end of year. In 2018 the network grew by 1,914 subscribers.

In 2018 Microsoft contributed $200,000 for the buildout of Grant PUD's fiber-optic network to the City of George. Expansion construction has recently been completed within George, and residents can now sign up for service. To commemorate the effort a ribbon-cutting ceremony is scheduled for May 21 with community leaders and representatives from Microsoft and Grant PUD. The ceremony will occur at the location of the new fiber hut that serves the city. (Listen to the full audio of the presentation starting at 2:19:50 of the commission audio and pages 34-46 of presentation materials in the commission packet)

Cold February drives rate revenue. Crypto energy use down.

Colder than expected temperatures in February and March increased energy use around Grant County, driving retail rate revenue 14 percent above budget, commissioners learned Tuesday.

"Retail" energy is the electricity Grant PUD sells to residential, commercial, industrial, irrigation and other customers in Grant County.

The average temperatures in February and March were 23 degrees and 35 degrees, Grant PUD Data Analyst Shaun Harrington told commissioners. Average temperatures for those months are normally 36 degrees and 43 degrees.

The colder temperatures contributed to a 13-percent increase in residential rate revenue, a 20.4-percent increase in commercial rate revenue, a 13.5-percent increase in general service rate revenue and a 13-percent increase in industrial rate revenue.

Total retail rate revenue for the first quarter was budgeted at $47.5 million. Actual retail rate revenue for that period was $54.1 million — $6.62 million over budget.

Cryptocurrency operations around the county peaked at 17.47 average megawatts in June 2018 and steadily decreased to 12.09 average megawatts in February 2019. Currently, 15 potential cryptocurrency customers have filed applications for service for a combined 313 megawatts of power. A new, higher rate for these higher-risk "evolving industry" businesses took effect April 1.

See the full retail rate revenue report on Pages 47-50 of Presentation Materials. Hear the discussion beginning at 1:47:50 on the Commission Audio.

Commissioners also:

— Heard that power was available to Grant PUD customers at least 99.97 percent of the time from October 2018 through March 2019, but dipped slightly below a District availability goal in January and February.

Power system availability since February has been well above its new goal of 99.985 percent, Jeff Grizzel, managing director of Power Delivery, told commissioners as part of his first-quarter business report.

The average outage time for affected customers in January and February climbed to almost 200 minutes, topping Grant PUD's goal of 110 minutes.

Two outages at Grant PUD's Graham Road Substation in Moses Lake drove both the dip in system availability and average outage duration in January and February, Grizzel said. Windblown trash from a nearby lot is the suspected cause of the outages. Grant PUD has since spoken with the owner of the lot, and trash has been removed.

See the full presentation on Pages 19-33 of Presentation Materials. Hear the discussion at 3:32:10 on the Commission Audio.

— Unanimously approved a resolution amending Grant PUD's customer service policy. See pages 8-67 of the commission packet.