Affordable and reliable energy is one of the main drivers of our rapidly-expanding economy in Grant County. As stewards entrusted with the care and operations of your local public utility district, we take our job seriously. A decade ago, no one could have imagined that we would serve some of the world’s largest and most diverse companies. Over this past decade, our county’s demand for energy has grown by over 60 percent. We anticipate similar growth over the coming years. With such a whirlwind of opportunity in the area, we are positioning ourselves to meet the needs of both new and existing customers in the future.
In 2017, your friends, family members and neighbors who work at Grant PUD made great strides toward materializing an investment in our local community electrical infrastructure. Some of this work was visible, including the building or upgrading of eight substations throughout the county, but much of our work was behind the scenes and included projects like the 10-year effort to overhaul the turbines and generators at Priest Rapids Dam. We have invested more in local infrastructure over this past year, than many Northwest utilities have invested in the past decade. This all reflects a desire to preserve affordable and reliable energy into the future.
This past year we provided increased public access to a beautiful new Crescent Bar Recreation Area along the Columbia River, welcomed thousands from around the world to the Wanapum and Hydro Interpretive Centers, built redundant transmission service to the greater Moses Lake community, and kicked off a three-year project to replace old meter technology in our county. This is a small sample of the incredible work that contributes to Grant PUD powering our local way of life.
Looking ahead to 2018, we expect to continue with our strategy of small, incremental electrical-service price increases as we make necessary investments in our local community infrastructure. Our current financial plans call for an average 2 percent retail revenue increase in the coming year. We believe that if we are asking customers to provide us with access to additional operating revenues, we need to do our part as well. That’s why we are targeting an essentially flat operations-and-maintenance expenditure over the next five years. We are also exploring ways to reallocate our valuable, but limited, staffing resources toward the highest-value work. By the end of 2021 we anticipate our staffing levels to be 30 less than current levels, mostly due to attrition. All this is an example of our commitment to efficiency without compromising reliability.
Our healthy local economy depends on safe, reliable and affordable power. Grant PUD’s low rates are a major draw for businesses moving to our area, leading the way to more job opportunities and services for residents across our county. That’s just one of the reasons we’re working to keep prices low — because we know the vitality of our communities depend on it.
We ended this year with feedback from our residential customer-satisfaction survey and 90 percent of residential customers told us that they were satisfied with our performance as a utility. We are grateful to hear that so many are pleased with our performance in the community. Despite these high marks, we recognize that customers expect and deserve excellence in safety, service and price. We look forward to delivering nothing less than this in the year to come.
Kevin Nordt is general manager of Grant County PUD.