Commission recap, 3/12/2024 — Riding on 'Lightning.' More...

From left, Commissioners Tom Flint, Terry Pyle, Larry Schaapman and Judy Wilson return to Grant PUD’s Ephrata Headquarters after taking the District’s new all-electric Ford 150 Lightning for a spin

Riding on Lightning

Commission meeting day, March 12, was a beautiful, sunny one for a drive, especially in Grant PUD’s new all-electric Ford F150 Lightning, half-ton pickup. Commissioners piled in for a test drive and were impressed enough to reserve the truck to drive to an upcoming business meeting. The District paid $45,879, plus tax, for the crew-cab truck, which can carry 4-5 people and has a range between charges of approximately 300 miles.

Ford’s website for the Lightning says the truck can do 0-60 in less than four seconds — not that the commissioners will be exceeding the speed limit to get to their meeting.

Grant PUD Fleet Manager Brian Barrows said the District will put the truck through its paces in the coming months to gauge its practicality for the daily demands of on-the-job duty. The knowledge will help inform the potential addition of future electric vehicles to the fleet, which already includes two all-electric Chevy Bolts, used mostly for Customer Service-related travel.

Wholesale power revenues exceed projections

Commissioners learned during a preliminary fourth-quarter 2023 financial report given by the Grant PUD finance team that the utility’s wholesale power sales exceeded projections, which was the primary driver of the utility’s projected change in net position of $352.9 million at year’s end.

According to a presentation given by Bryndon Ecklund, lead financial analyst, Grant PUD budgeted for a $93.7 million change in net position for 2023. Net wholesale revenue was $215.6 million above the budgeted amount of $95.2 million. This line item was the largest factor in the positive year-end balance. 

A portion of this additional income has been designated for Grant PUD’s Reserve & Contingency fund. The R&C fund is a designated cash reserve account that helps to protect customers from rate surcharges if unexpected expenses happen. Additional net power revenues can also be used to offset the need for issuance of debt to pay for capital projects, Ecklund stated. Grant PUD’s debt-to-plant ratio (the value of assets in relation to debt) was initially budgeted for 48%. It is now projected to be 44%. 

The utility is also seeing better than expected wholesale fiber-optic sales as it budgeted $12.3 million in sales for 2023 and is projecting revenues of $13.7 million.

The 2023 financial statements will be included in the utility’s annual report after the audit is complete, stated Jennifer Sager, senior manager of Accounting.

 See the full presentation quarterly financial report on pages 19-106 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 1:37:55 on the commission audio.

Commissioners also:

— Heard that important evaluations are on tap for 2025 through 2027 to determine if Grant PUD is meeting its survival targets for yearling chinook, juvenile steelhead and sockeye. To conduct these evaluations, tags (acoustic and PIT tags) are surgically implanted in the fish and their movements are tracked as they migrate through the Priest Rapids and Wanapum Dam reservoirs. Failure to hit targets could result in increased costs to the utility in No Net Impact contributions, increased hatchery production or other mitigation requests, including increased spill and altered operations at the dams, Tom Dresser, manager of Fish, Wildlife and Water Quality, told commissioners. See the full presentation on pages 1-8 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 16:21:00 on the commission audio.

— Heard that the Wanapum Heritage Center is open to the public Thursday through Monday, with Tuesdays and Wednesdays dedicated to visits from school districts. The center’s new Wanapum Native American Discovery Unit mobile museum is nearly finished and expected to be ready for use in early June. The center plans to have a long-anticipated gift shop open in October 2024. See the full presentation on pages 9-18 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at 1:00:41 on the commission audio.

— Unanimously approved Resolutions 9045 awarding a $2.07 million contract with Basin Tree Service and Pest Control of Ephrata for distribution- and fiber- line tree trimming and removal services, District wide. Basin Tree and Pest Control was the only bidder on the contract. Tree trimming improves safety and helps reduce outages. For more information, see pages 10-76 if the commission packet.

— Unanimously approved Resolution 9046 to allow Grant PUD to establish a line of credit with JP Morgan to obtain letters of credit to serve as collateral for obligations under contracts and agreements to purchase additional electricity to meet customers’ needs. These types of transactions and the associated collateral are standard processes for businesses of all types. Commissioners received and discussed this contract at their 2/27/2024 meeting. For more information, see pages 79-107 if the commission packet. And pages 65-75 of the presentation materials from 2/27/2024.

Unanimously approved Resolution 9047 to allow Grant PUD’s manager/CEO to act on behalf of Grant PUD to in emergency situations specific to contracting engineering services for transmission studies and planning. These emergency situations would require the immediate execution of the work involved to keep Grant PUD’s public interest or property safe from material injury or damage. Hear the discussion at 3:23:53 on the commission audio.

— Unanimously approved a motion to pay Just Right Cleaning and Construction of Moses Lake $19,639.48 for an unauthorized, emergency cleaning and drying service after a pipe burst the night of 1/13/2024 and flooded the Moses Lake Service Center. Grant PUD’s own Facilities crew worked through the night to clean as much as possible but needed extra assistance from Just Right to get the job done. Since the incident, Grant PUD has set up a plan for after-hour emergencies to prevent a need for unauthorized purchases.  For more information, see pages 109-128 if the commission packet.

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