New PUD connection policy to protect core customers and provide certainty

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EPHRATA — Grant PUD commissioners unanimously agreed Tuesday to move forward to create a new customer rate class for cryptocurrency miners that would protect the interests of the utility’s existing customers.

By adopting this policy, the board also affirmed its position that core customer groups — residential, irrigation and commercial customers — will continue to be first in line for access to the benefits of low-cost energy generated at Grant PUD’s hydro facilities. The policy also creates a priority status for traditional commercial and industrial customers who are waiting for power service. The new “Evolving Industry” rate class provides more certainty of costs and waiting periods to the large number of cryptocurrency firms interested in service.

With the new plan, cryptocurrency firms would pay a rate — to be determined — that covers both Grant PUD’s cost to provide their electricity and any elevated risks they pose to the utility’s other customers. Similar to the pricing for current large industrial customers, the new policy requires these emerging businesses to pay more, so core residential, irrigation and commercial customers can continue to pay below-cost rates. Evolving Industry customers would cover extra costs if Grant PUD has to pay more to bring additional power resources into the county to serve their load.

By July 1, Grant PUD plans to begin processing applications for traditional commercial and industrial customers, who have been waiting for electrical service since last fall while staff developed this new policy. The utility is expected to implement the new Evolving Industry rate class by Aug. 1.

“Electric service infrastructure is limited and lead times are long to build system capacity,” said Commission President Terry Brewer. “This new rate class and policy will ensure traditional industry gets the power it needs, and our core customers will continue to receive the economic benefits of our power generation going well into the future. It also keeps the door open for potentially promising new technologies.”

A product of six months of research and analysis, the new Evolving Industry rate would apply to businesses:

· Whose primary revenue stream is evolving and unproven.

· Whose ability to pay power rates long term is uncertain or at risk, compared to traditional customer classes.

· Who are vulnerable to extreme value fluctuations of their primary output.

· Who are at risk for detrimental changes in regulation.

· Who could become part of a large concentration of power demand in Grant PUD’s service area.

Early on, cryptocurrency firms likely will be the only members of the Evolving Industry customer class, but the class will apply to all businesses that meet the same proposed risk criteria.

Evolving Industry customers would be placed in a secondary waiting queue for service and traditional commercial and industrial customers’ applications will be processed first. Evolving Industry customers would also pay an application fee and expenses to reimburse engineering costs, plus up-front costs to cover infrastructure upgrades needed to serve them.

Since summer 2017, Grant PUD has received an unprecedented 125 new service requests that total above 2,000 megawatts of electricity. This is more than three times the electricity needed to power all Grant County homes, farms, businesses and industry. One average megawatt of electricity provides enough energy to serve about 450 homes in Grant County. Approximately 75 percent of these requests are from cryptocurrency firms.

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