Grant County PUD establishes new rate class

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EPHRATA — Grant County PUD commissioners have approved the creation of a new rate class, designed for new industries. The “evolving industries” class will be implemented by August 1. The actual rate is still to be determined.

Utility district commissioners approved the new rate class at the regular meeting Tuesday, accepting a recommendation from PUD employees. “The policy also creates a priority status for traditional commercial and industrial customers who are waiting for power service,” according to a PUD press release.

The new rate class was prompted by a flood of inquiries about and requests for electrical service, which started in summer and fall 2017. The 125 requests totaled more than 2,000 megawatts, more than the PUD has available. About 75 percent of the requests came from cryptocurrency businesses, said Dave Churchman of the PUD’s accounting department at the April 24 commission meeting.

Cryptocurrency is a kind of virtual money, protected by encryption. Processing the transactions is called “cryptocurrency mining,” and it’s of interest to the PUD because the process uses lots of electricity. The PUD stopped processing new requests while they decided how to proceed.

Utility district employees should start processing applications for “traditional commercial and industrial customers" by July 1.

The new rate class would apply to businesses when the business’s primary revenue “is evolving and unproven,” the press release said, or whose ability to pay power rates for the long term is “uncertain or at risk compared to traditional customer classes."

Businesses would also fit in the new class when the business is at risk for detrimental changes in regulation, that “could become part of a large concentration of power demand in the PUD service area,” or that could be vulnerable to large fluctuations in value. “Early on, cryptocurrency firms likely will be the only members of the Evolving Industry class, but the class will apply to all businesses that meet the same proposed risk criteria.”

Businesses in the evolving industries rate class would pay a rate “that covers both Grant PUD’s cost to provide their electricity and pay any elevated risks they pose to the utility’s customers. Evolving industry class customers would cover extra costs if Grant PUD has to pay more to bring additional power resources into the country to serve the load.” Customers in the new class will pay “an application fee and expenses to reimburse engineering costs, plus up-front costs to cover infrastructure upgrades needed to serve them.”

The applications from the evolving industry class would go into a “secondary” line, and applications from traditional and commercial customers will be processed first.

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

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