Commission recap, 11/28/2023 — New software, solid teamwork shave hours off turbine/generator rehab

Project managers are crediting teamwork and a new cloud-based tool for project scheduling, resource management and performance monitoring for shaving thousands of work hours off the rehab of a fifth turbine/generator unit at Priest Rapids Dam and finishing the big project 38 days ahead of schedule.

Rehab of the fifth of the dam’s 10 generating units required 88,000 work hours to complete, compared to 95,000 hours for the previous turbine/generating unit, Project Manager Eric Hull told commissioners. The Oracle software tool, Primavera, was responsible for a portion of the efficiency gain, combined with quality teamwork.

Rehab of a single unit requires more than 800 individual tasks, each requiring at least one day, he said. The tool allows managers and supervisors to better schedule and reschedule work crews to reduce down time due to unexpected supply chain and other delays.

Grant PUD launched the software two years ago, he said. The tool is widely used throughout the industry. The dam’s turbine/generator rehab project began in August 2016. The final five units are scheduled to be rehabbed by late October 2029.

“So, are we on schedule?” Hull rhetorically asked commissioners? “No. We’re ahead of schedule.”

“We’re proud of you guys. That’s good,” Commissioner Tom Flint said.  

Chief Administrative Officer Julie Pyper showed her appreciation for the good work by surprising Hull and his supervisor, Senior Manager of the Enterprise Project Management Office Aaron Kuntz, with Altoids mints for hearing the refreshing news. A bag of Almond Joy bars, because saving time and labor  is a joyful, and a bag of PayDay bars for money saved.

For more information, see pages 32-58 of the presentation materials. Hear the full discussion at 1:18:00 on the commission audio.


Power-sales revenue better than projected 

During the third quarter financial report, commissioners learned that operating revenues at the utility have increased by $154.7 million through the first nine months of 2023 compared with the same time in 2022. Jennifer Sager, senior manager of Accounting, told the commissioners that variance is primarily because of a $129.3 million increase in wholesale revenues and $25.6 million in additional retail revenues. At the same time, operating expenses increased by $11.8 million, which makes for net operating income of $239.6 million for the nine months ending September 30,2023, which is $142.9 million higher than the previous year.

The utility is projecting that by the end of 2023, it will see a net operating income of $268.1 million, well above the budget of $108.5 million. The district is projecting to transfer a portion of that money into its Reserve & Contingency fund, plus provide internal loans to help pay for capital improvements, said Lead Financial Analyst Bryndon Ecklund.  

See the full presentation on pages 110 to 150 of the presentation packet.  Hear the full discussion at 4:21:16 on the commission audio. 

Conservation targets set for next two years

Grant PUD’s Energy Services Department will work with customers to offer cost-effective energy conservation programs in 2024 and 2025 that will save at least 3.81 average megawatts, which is enough to power about 3,000 homes.

The goal comes as part of the requirements in Washington Energy Independence Act (I-937). Energy Services will be working with residential, commercial, industrial and agricultural customers to achieve the goal, said Christopher Buchmann, Energy Services Program Supervisor.

Targets will be met with a variety of incentives for energy efficiency projects, including adding insulation, replacing windows, installing heat pumps, sealing ductwork, lighting, installing efficient water pumps and irrigation upgrades. His department will also be working with industrial customers on specialized projects. Hear the full discussion at 2:57:00 on the commission audio. 


Commissioners also:

— Unanimously approved Resolution 9033, accepting a bid and awarding Contract 130-12026H to Palouse Power LLC for a contract dock crew for 2024-2025. Palouse Power was the lowest compliant bidder at $13.39 million. Seven total companies bid on the contract.  For more information see pages 8-97 in the commission packet.

— Unanimously approved Motion 3459, authorizing the general manager on behalf of Grant PUD to execute seven-year Contract 430-12000, not to exceed $6.6 million, with Brazil Quality Services for inspection support for the turbine/generator upgrades at Priest Rapids Dam through 2030. Grant PUD awarded Brazil a similar contract, this one for 10 years, in July 2014 for factory inspections in China and Brazil, where components for the dam were being manufactured. Staff believes it’s important for project success to maintain third-party inspection services. For more information see pages 98-125 in the commission packet.

— Unanimously approved Motion 3460, authorizing the general manager to execute on behalf of Grant PUD Contract 430-11765 with Absher Constuction + Integrus Architecture + Huitt-Zollars Design Build Team in an amount not to exceed $3.99 million to execute program validation and pre-design work for a new Ephrata Service Center using the Progressive Design-Build approach with estimated completion by year-end 2027 and total estimated cost of $235.41 million. For more information see pages 126-287 in the commission packet.

— Heard a staff proposal to transfer $45 million in revenues into the Grant PUD Reserve and Contingency (R&C) Fund, to offset any possible shortfalls in “debt-service coverage” — the funding the utility has available to cover its debt payments. The target is currently 2.0, or twice the amount needed to cover debt. The funds transfer would bring the utility’s debt-service-coverage to 3.37 — nearly three-and-a-half times the funding needed to cover debt payments. Any funding withdrawn from the R&C fund requires prior commission approval. Commissioners are scheduled to vote on the proposal at their Dec. 12 meeting. For more information see pages 59-64 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 1:56:54 on the commission audio.

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