Commission Recap 6-23-2020: Commissioners review proposed Integrate Resource Plan

Every two years Washington state requires electric utilities to develop an Integrated Resource Plan. The plan provides Grant PUD with a roadmap for how it will provide reliable and low-cost electrical service to its customers over the next 10-years by examining substantial risks and uncertainties inherent to an electric utility.

"It is not just a regulatory requirement for us anymore, as the load grows and we can consider what our power portfolio should look like," General Manager/CEO Kevin Nordt told commissioners during Tuesday's Commission Meeting.

Staff reviewed with commissioners the various risks considered within the model of the Integrated Resource Plan, shared potential load forecast scenarios, and discussed key takeaways as the utility prepares for a Sept. 1 filing with the state.

Forecasts within the different scenarios show, that on an annual basis, Grant PUD has enough existing resources to meet expected load growth through 2028. Although seasonal capacity deficits may appear beginning in 2026. Grant PUD also expects to meet its renewable portfolio obligations with existing resources until 2025.

Grant PUD will have different options to fill future capacity and energy needs.

Senior Manager of Wholesale, Rich Flanigan, shared that as part of the group's proposed action plan an internal team will be assembled to coordinate efforts to analyze long-term resource needs and review various strategies that will go into developing an approach for how to best meet forecasted deficits.

"We have a good, solid team and we are in a great spot as we look to the future," said Nordt. "As this moves from a basic plan to more of an implementation phase, that is when we will really start digging into specific market opportunities and development projects."

"A lot of information and a lot of good work," said Commissioner Schaapman as he complimented the team's work on developing the plan. "It's interesting to look into the future."

A public hearing for the Integrated Resource Plan is set for July 28 during the regularly scheduled Commission Meeting. Following public input and commission review, staff will be asking for commissioners' approval of the plan by resolution on Aug. 25.

See the entire IRP presentation here and listen to the discussion beginning at 2:58:00 of the commission audio.

Commissioners also:

—Heard Manager of Safety and Industrial Training, Craig Bressan point to the work Grant PUD employees are doing within their individual Safety Groups to keep safety at the forefront of everyone's mind at Grant PUD. Each employee-driven group is led by a chair and scribe, who can use their energy and creativity to communicate a different safety message each month. Meetings are mandatory and monthly. See the full presentation on pages 13-21 of the presentation materials. Listen to the discussion at 44:55 on the commission audio.

— Heard that Rate Schedule 2 now clarifies how Grant PUD bills for unmetered energy-using devices, such as the security cameras and systems owned by cities. These devices draw their power from unmetered energy sources, including streetlights, and are billed based on their rated amount of energy use. Rate Schedule 6 for streetlights now includes energy efficient LED lighting — something cities around Grant County have been asking for. See pages 22-26 in the presentation materials. Hear the conversation at 59:15 on the commission audio.

— Heard an update from Security Manager Fallon Long that the department's $4.49 million budget is on track and upgrades continue to secure access points to Grant PUD buildings and yards. The $1.23 million in security upgrades include real-time perimeter surveillance and are expected to be complete by year's end. Analysis continues to develop an Emergency Operations Center to facilitate emergency management. Grant PUD staff, commissioners and appointees received federal-style emergency management training in January. See pages 28-35 in the presentation materials. Hear the conversation at 1:13:55 on the commission audio.

— Learned that Grant PUD's Corrective Action Program Manager Robert Lougee is working with his staff to improve the ability of Grant PUD to recover from and prevent unexpected incidents, including major outages and equipment failures.

The team is developing a systematic method for analyzing what went wrong using methods that include interviews with key staff and review of lessons learned.

Lougee demonstrated the program's diversity and adaptability by discussing various Corrective Action Program efforts underway around Grant PUD.

Work to date includes an analysis of Grant PUD's response to the coronavirus pandemic. For example, after learning that important information about pandemic-related policies and practices wasn't reaching key employee groups, the team proposed a half-hour employee podcast that now happens weekly, focused on COVID-19 and other topics. See pages 37-43 in the presentation materials. Hear the conversation at 1:24:25 on the commission audio.

— Heard from Senior Manager of Organizational Development, Thomas Stredwick as he shared his team's efforts to develop a systematic approach to employee trainings and engagement, leadership development, and other activities impacting the organization's culture.

During the group's inaugural quarterly business report to the commission, Stedwick said his department exists to support the organizational health of the company by creating clarity around how the organization leads, trains, and treats employees throughout utility.

Fulfilling these efforts are part of the second objective of Grant PUD's strategic plan.

Stredwick shared the group's accomplishments thus far in 2020, while discussing strategies and metrics the department will continue to implement throughout the rest of the year.

See a list of activities and plans in Stredwick's report on pages 77-96 of the presentation materials and hear the discussion which begins at 2:10:30 of the commission audio.

Resumed discussion of Commissioner Dale Walker's proposal to temporarily reduce electric rates through December for residential, commercial and irrigation customers to further help counter negative impacts from the coronavirus pandemic. Commissioners Tom Flint, Larry Schaapman, Nelson Cox and Judy Wilson said they'd like staff to give them alternatives to Commissioner Walker's proposal, including ways to further bolster existing aid programs. Grant PUD's power-bill-assistance program Share the Warmth and a similar state program already exist to help struggling families pay their power bills.

General Manager Kevin Nordt said staff would take another look and bring back alternatives to a broader, proposed temporary rate reduction. Listen to the discussion at 3:50:00 on the commission audio. Read more on this proposal here.