Commission Recap 6/11/2019, Discussion continues on possible expansion of Grant PUD's transmission capacity

Commissioners continued learning more about potential expansion of the "the backbone" of Grant PUD's electrical system, 230 kV transmission. The topic has been a point of discussion during the past two commission meetings and on Tuesday commissioners were advised of what the potential electrical upgrades may entail.

Senior Manager of Power Delivery Engineering, Jesus Lopez told commissioners about a plan that would increase reliability and transmission capacity for Grant PUD's large industrial customers in Quincy. The proposed plan includes constructing a new 32-mile 230 kV transmission line from the Wanapum Switchyard as a new power route to Quincy. The plan involves completing construction of the Mountain View Switchyard and building an additional transmission switchyard in Quincy. The new transmission line would provide a connection from these two locations to the Wanapum Switchyard.

These efforts would benefit customers by providing transmission service redundancy to the Quincy area. The plan would also bring that part of the system into compliance with transmission planning guidelines adopted by the commission last year. Currently large industrial customers in Quincy are served by a single 230 kV transmission source which connects to BPA's Columbia transmission substation and Grant PUD's Larson transmission substation.

According to Lopez, the proposed expansion plan would more than double the transmission import capacity to the Quincy area, which has an existing transmission import capacity of 310 MW. The new plan would increase that limit to 650 MW. A conceptual timeline for the plan shows the project completion in 2026.

Commissioner Dale Walker inquired if a 2026 completion date would put Grant PUD "behind the eight-ball" considering current demand and the number of service requests that have been received.

CEO/General Manager, Kevin Nordt said the proposed timing wouldn't jeopardize the utilities' ability to serve customers and that this is why the PUD is being proactive by reviewing options and determining the best way to move forward at this time.

During their May 14 meeting, commissioners learned that Grant PUD's general queue for requests for large electrical service is 423 megawatts, with 279 MW of the requests occurring within the Quincy area.

The project has a cost estimate of $140.8 million. During a previous report to the commission, staff said they anticipate the break-even point for the project occurring as soon as 2034.

The commission will continue discussion and learning more about possible transmission expansion during future meetings.

(See the full presentation to the commission on pages 1- 13 of the presentation materials and hear the discussion which begins on 00:03:20 of the commission audio)

Microsoft Pays-it-Forward

Commissioners authorized dispersing $480,000 to Grant PUD's Pay-it-Forward program. The money became available when Microsoft chose to forgo a conservation savings rebate that it was entitled to receive because of energy-efficiency upgrades the company made to its Quincy data centers.

Microsoft's upgrades helped Grant PUD achieve the requirements that are part of the state's Energy Independence Act (I-937). Microsoft's participation in the conservation program helped Grant PUD save millions of dollars in costs to achieve the same conservation goals through other methods.

Instead of taking the money, Microsoft opted to work with Grant PUD staff to have the funds go toward improving the lives of local residents. Big Bend Community College will receive $400,000 to go toward covering the college's costs of furthering industrial, mechanical and technical programs in its new Workforce Education Building.

There will be $50,000 allocated for developing a program to provide locally-grown produce to families of school-age children in need, $20,000 in grants to help local school districts pay for the costs of getting sixth-grade students to an educational outreach event at Wanapum Dam, and $10,000 for Grant PUD's Share the Warmth program.

(See more on pages 8-9 of the commission packet and hear the discussion which begins on 02:58:05 of the commission audio)

Commissioners also:

-Unanimously approved salary and benefit increases for Grant PUD General Manager Kevin Nordt and General Counsel Mitch Delabarre. Effective June 14, Nordt will receive a one-time addition of 15 days of personal leave and a 3-percent salary increase to $300,789 annually, up from his former salary of $292,032. Delabarre will receive a one-time addition of ten days of personal leave and a 3-percent salary increase to $267,530 per year, up from his former salary of $259,740 annually.

(See pages 6-7 of commission packet and 02:57:30 of commission audio)

-Learned about staff recommendations for a new human capital management system. The proposed system would provide a one-stop fully integrated solution providing employees with all their human resources needs. The new system would also increase efficiency by streamlining tasks and processes for the HR department which would then provide an overall improvement of HR's capabilities and interactions across the organization.

Transitioning to the cloud-based system would replace the multiple programs and tools currently used by Grant PUD's HR department. The implementation of the software would also eliminate the need to continue investing in the hardware and life-cycle costs of existing systems.

The project is part of Grant PUD's Enterprise Technology Plan. The software has a five-year project cost of just over $2 million. The implementation of the system provides an anticipated internal rate of return of 35.1 percent over the same five-year time frame with payback beginning on the investment starting in year two. Pending commission approval, staff anticipates implementing the program by Jan. 1, 2020.

(See pages 39-49 of commission packet and 01:53:45 of commission audio)

-heard how Grant PUD's External Affairs Department is working to improve communications and outreach to customers and stakeholders. The utility's Public Affairs group has been working to leverage its communication channels so important messages, such as Grant PUD's healthy finances, hydro operations, fish passage and the expanding fiber optic system, area all regularly communicated to target audience.

(See pages 64-87 of presentation materials and 03:36:25 of commission audio)

Received reports regarding the following topics:

  • Fish and Wildlife quarterly business report by Tom Dresser (discussion begins at 01:21:20 of commission audio and pages 19-38 staff reports)
  • Cultural Resources quarterly business report by Brett Lenz (discussion begins at 03:08:35 and pages 50-56 staff reports)
  • A review of Grant PUD's strategic plan dashboard status by Jeremy Noland (discussion begins at 03:21:15 and pages 57-63 staff reports)

Next commission meeting: June 25, Ephrata Headquarters

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