Grant PUD 2018 rates to be unveiled at Jan. 23 meeting

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EPHRATA — A public meeting to get a first look at the proposed Grant County PUD rates is scheduled for 2:30 p.m. Jan. 23 at the PUD headquarters building, 30 Southwest C St., Ephrata.

The 2018 rates will go into effect April 1.

The PUD’s 2018 budget includes an overall 2 percent rate increase, although the increases would be different for different classes. Utility district policy requires that all rate classes pay at least 80 percent of the cost of providing electricity, and a maximum of 15 percent over the cost of service.

Utility district employees will go over the proposed rates for different rate classes, including commercial and residential customers, large and small industrial and irrigation customers, among others. A comment period is scheduled after the presentation. Public comment on rates also will be accepted at the Feb. 13 commission meeting, scheduled for 1 p.m. People also can submit email comments at commissioners@gcpud.org.

That cost of providing electricity is evaluated through an ongoing study, called a cost of service analysis, that’s updated periodically. At the Jan. 9 commission meeting, commissioner Terry Brewer asked if the COSA had been updated, and if the rates would reflect that.

“A full-on COSA update will be occurring this year,” said PUD general manager Kevin Nordt. “These (2018) rates will be based on the last update to the COSA” which was in 2016.

The expiration last July of a contract between the PUD and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation meant a change in the way some costs were allocated for irrigators. As part of the contract the PUD had paid some charges, which will be paid by irrigators in the future. Commissioner Bob Bernd asked if those costs had been taken into account when setting rates for irrigators. Nordt said it was included in the analysis for 2018.

“We’re aggressively trying to economize as best we can,” Nordt said. The 2018 budget, and the rates, reflect a spending cut of about $33 million from the 2017 budget.

Utility district commissioners approved a policy in 2014 that mandated an overall 2 percent rate increase each year for 10 years. That was prompted by a project, projected to take about 20 years, to upgrade all turbines and generators at Priest Rapids and Wanapum dams. The work at Wanapum Dam is mostly complete. Work on the second turbine-generator unit at Priest Rapids is scheduled for 2018. There are 10 units total at Priest Rapids.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com

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