No changes to overall PUD rate policy

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EPHRATA — While there may be some changes in rate classes, the basic principles behind the existing rates of the Grant County PUD probably won’t change. That was the conclusion of a discussion at the regular commission meeting Tuesday.

The goal is for all customers to be paying at least 80 percent of the cost of providing electricity, and not more than 15 above the cost of providing service, with all customers within that range by 2024. Most customer classes are on schedule to achieve that by 2024, said PUD general manager Kevin Nordt.

Existing policies also set a goal of an overall 2 percent rate increase each year through 2024. Rate increases may be more than or less than 2 percent for individual rate classes.

The PUD staff is working on a review of the current rate classes; employees already have recommended a new rate class. The “emerging industries” class is designed for new types of businesses, cryptocurrency being the only example currently.

Rates have been a recurring topic of discussion at commission meetings, and the underlying rate policy came up during one of those discussions. Commissioners set aside time to review the policy, and Nordt said PUD employees needed to know if there would be changes to the policy before making changes to the rate structure.

Commissioner Terry Brewer said he’s in favor of the upper and lower targets as they’ve been established. But, he said, he didn’t think it was the intention to push the industrial classes (class 14, 15 and 16) to pay the maximum permitted (the cost of service plus the 15 percent).

Commissioner Bob Bernd said he agreed. In his opinion the goal of the rate policy is to ensure all customers are paying close to the actual cost of service.

Commissioner Tom Flint said he has made no secret of his opposition to the current rate policy. “I think it gets away from our historical (practice), we call it the birthright preference, how the PUD got started. I understand not everybody agrees with me,” but that’s his take on rate design.

There are, Flint said, businesses in class 2 that are actually agriculture operations. “You’ve got all the things that are in the general service class now that really are ag-based,” said commissioner Larry Schaapman. Flint said commissioners have discussed adding a class for ag-based industry, and that they should go ahead and explore that idea. Nordt said that was one of the options under consideration.

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

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