Commission recap, 5/14/2024 — Irrigation rate could rebrand, expand for lower-cost ag power. More...

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Grant PUD’s Irrigation Service Rate 3 would be rebranded as “Agricultural Service” and expanded to include separate categories for electricity used for irrigation and other ag activities — if further study proves it financially viable.

Commissioners Tuesday got another look at the proposed revamped electric rate, intended to benefit Grant County’s farmers with lower-cost electricity.

The new rate would contain a “3a” classification for irrigation pumping and a “3b” classification for electricity used for growing crops, raising livestock and processing or storing ag products. 

Farmers for “3b-type” activities are now billed under Rate Schedules 2 and 7, for small and large commercial customers. These rate classes also include non-farm activity, including small retailers, big-box stores and supermarkets, who, unlike farmers, can generally pass their price increases on to consumers. 

Grant PUD will launch an info-gathering campaign to seek energy-use information from those customers who could qualify for the new agricultural rate. Results of the campaign will determine total energy needed to supply the qualifying customers, the financial impact of potential new rate and its cost.

Switch to the new rate class would be voluntary, for now. Over time, as future rate increases occur, the goal would be to keep the new rates lower than the rates in Rate Schedules 2 and 7.

If the proposal pencils out and commissioners approve, the new rates would take effect April 1, 2025, along with the next expected general electric rate increase.

Commission President Tom Flint urged staff to consider adding a cap or other control to the proposal to help ensure the rate remains targeted for farmers.

See the full presentation on pages 20-33 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at _____ on the commission audio.

Commissioners also:

 — Heard of plans in the works to increase the deposits industrial applicants make to get in and remain in the waiting queue for electricity hookups. The preliminary plan calls for industrial applicants to make up to a 60% deposit toward the fee they’ll eventually pay to cover costs of substation and line improvements required to deliver them power. They’d lose the deposit if they don’t follow through with their investment plans in Grant County. The plan seeks to eliminate speculators who get in queues for large blocks of power all over the country to follow through only on the one that is available first. Meanwhile, smaller more serviceable hook-up requests that intend to locate in Grant County are stuck behind them in line.

See the full presentation on pages 34-37 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at _____ on the commission audio.

 — Heard an update regarding key bills, issues, and topics from the recently completed state legislative session. Ryan Holterhoff, senior policy analyst, and Chuck Allen, senior manager of External Affairs & Communications, reported on new energy-related laws including the linkage of Washington’s carbon market with California and Quebec, consumer protections against unscrupulous sales techniques by solar vendors, and updates to the open public meeting act.

The commissioners also heard of the recent Mid-Columbia Energy Tour hosted by Grant, Douglas and Chelan PUDs. The two-day event in April covered issues of importance to Washington state policymakers and agencies by highlighting the significant contribution the Mid-Columbia PUDs provide to the state’s energy portfolio and the challenges of serving continued growth in the region. The event included tours and policy discussions related to energy load growth, transmission expansion, low-income energy assistance, and renewable hydrogen.   

See the full presentation on pages 1-19 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at _____ on the commission audio.

— Heard an update from IT Manager Charles Meyer and his team about their ongoing plans to improve security and performance of Grant PUD’s networks and data. 

 See the full presentation on pages 63-76 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at _____ on the commission audio. 
— Met Clark Mather, the new executive director of NW River Partners, a lobbying organization that advocates and educates on the benefits of hydropower. Mather said the group’s “Water is our Power” campaign has begun to convert members of the public of all ages into “hydropower evangelists.”  Commission President Tom Flint said, “We’re excited to hear you’re gaining some traction with the younger folks.”   

See the full presentation on pages 38-62 of the presentation materials. Hear the discussion at _____ on the commission audio.

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