Commission recap, 2/13/2024: Commissioners urge faster move toward new electric generation. More...

Commissioners Tuesday urged Grant PUD staff to move more quickly to acquire or otherwise build new generation to meet the energy needs of new and existing customers.

“We need more power. We’re costing our customers jobs,” Commissioner Nelson Cox said. Commissioners Tom Flint, Larry Schaapman and Terry Pyle expressed similar concerns.

Flint called for staff to take a new look at building a natural-gas-powered turbine generator to satisfy energy demand in the shorter term, until the utility can generate more of its own carbon-free power, whether it be via a small modular nuclear (SMR) plant or other resource. Lead time to get an SMR plant permitted, built and operational is approximately 12 years, he said.

“We’re going to need a resource quicker than that,” he said.

General Manager Rich Wallen said the natural-gas turbine could conflict with the state’s carbon-free-energy-supply goals, but staff would look into it.

Cox added, “Companies are willing to partner with us. They tell me ‘Price isn’t really that big a deal. We’ll do what we can to work with you, but we’ve got to have these guarantees.’ I want to kick up our pace.”

The commissioners’ request is a shift from their previous emphasis on caution in developing costly new generation to supplement Grant PUD’s hydro and wind power.

“I appreciate everyone’s passion,” Wallen said. “The appetite is changing a little bit. We’re getting the message loud and clear.”

Grant PUD customers hit a new peak in energy consumption with just over 1,000 megawatts of electricity during the recent cold snap. Staff is currently evaluating customer requests for approximately 2,600 additional megawatts.

Hear the discussion at 20:51:10 on the commission audio.


Crypto customers to become first ‘demand response’ pilot project

Grant PUD will be launching a pilot project in 2024 that would reimburse energy-intense cryptocurrency data-processing firms to curtail their operations at times when Grant PUD most needs the extra electricity.

The plan could free up a portion of the approximately 40-to-50 megawatts of electricity the county’s cryptocurrency miners are collectively forecast to use, commissioners learned.

Participation in the approximately year-long project would be voluntary, Grant PUD Large Power Solutions Manager, Baxter Gillette said. The crypto firms would be reimbursed via credits toward their next month’s power bill.

If the pilot project goes well, similar pilot projects for other customer classes, such as irrigation and industrial customers, will likely occur in the coming years.

Grant PUD would likely ask for curtailment a few times a year when both energy use in the county and market prices to buy additional power are high, Project Specialist Dave Churchman said.

See the full presentation on pages 1-32 in the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 55:20:10  on the commission audio.

Commissioners also:

— Unanimously approved a no-cost intergovernmental Cooperative Purchasing Agreement with OMNIA Partners, a national contracting alliance. By joining the alliance, Grant PUD can save time and money by allowing public agencies to “piggyback” on shared contracts.  Grant PUD staff would still be responsible to ensure the contracts meet utility’s own contracting requirements. For more information, see page 10 of the Commission Packet.

— Heard how the Grant PUD Information Technology Department is improving efficiencies across the utility, including plans to replace the many unrelated software systems currently in use with an integrated software system with tools designed to work together to handle many different parts of the business. Managing Director of Enterprise Technology Charles Meyer described the change as “transformative,” since the integrated system will allow for a more seamless workflow and streamline some processes. See the full presentation on pages 33-45 in the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 1:33:37 on the commission audio.

— Learned of the bills Grant PUD is tracking through the state and federal legislatures.

  • HB 2201/SB 6058 would facilitate the linkage of Washington’s carbon allowance market with the California and Quebec carbon markets. One aspect of the bill is it would help stabilize the costs of the carbon allowance auctions. SB 6256 is proposed to establish rules of business practice for solar contractors and solar salespersons. The bill should help to limit the circumstances where unscrupulous solar companies mislead the public about the benefits of solar, which leads to utilities having to deal with dissatisfied customers.
  • HB 1589 prohibits any large gas company serving more than 500,000 customers from providing new natural gas service. Holterhoff said utilities have concerns over transitioning a large number of customers to more electricity consumption at a time when the grid is already strained.  
  • On the federal side, Grant PUD is working with other hydropower generators in the Northwest to ensure their interests are considered during the negotiations for a new Columbia River Treaty. Grant PUD is also working with others in the hydro industry to emphasize the importance of preserving the Lower Snake River Dams as an important resource for NW Power Grid stability. 

See the full presentation on pages 46-61 in the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 2:01:00 on the commission audio.

— Heard from the Energy Supply Management” (ESM) group on their plans to ensure Grant PUD has the electricity it needs for future county growth. This team is looking at everything from contracting with current commercial and industry partners for additional electricity to investigating state-of-the-art technology and continuing to analyze feasibility of building new carbon-free generation to supplement the utility’s clean hydropower.

“The world is changing but this group is keeping us current and not two steps behind,” Commissioner Terry Pyle said.

See the full presentation on pages 64-91 in the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 3:10:49 on the commission audio.

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