Chelan PUD commissioners Monday unanimously approved the utility’s 2016 budget that carries out priorities for investing in physical assets and employees, continuing to pay down debt and supporting the Public Power Benefit projects chosen by community members during strategic planning.
Board members also modified and extended the moratorium on applications for service to large loads, narrowing it to server farms and similar technology operations with intense energy use of 250 kilowatt hours (kWh) per square-foot or more per year, such as “bitcoin miners.” Commissioners set in motion steps toward proposing a new rate class for those users at 5.036 cents per kWh to cover the cost of service, keep District finances stable and protect value for all customer-owners. Commissioners continued the modified moratorium to at least March 7, 2016.
There is no general electric rate increase in next year’s budget Substantial positive bottom line results are predicted for next year and through the next five years even as Chelan PUD keeps paying down debt, refurbishes dam turbines and generators and continues its strategic plan-defined Public Power Benefit investments.
Debt repayment of $23 million is planned for 2016, keeping the utility on pace to achieve its 35 percent debt to equity mark one year early – by the end of 2018. Bottom line results for 2016 are forecast at about $76 million reflecting expected lower wholesale market prices. The revised forecast is within 1 percent of previous estimates. Continuing investments in major capital projects is set at about $64 million.
Next year’s budget has funding for Public Power Benefit programs including the day use parking pass pilot, installation of up to nine electric vehicle charging stations and beginning construction of an expanded wholesale fiber-optic network. Commissioners also invited customers to submit new Public Power Benefit proposals by Jan. 1, 2016, for future projects to be considered during budgeting for 2017 and beyond.
Three people spoke at Monday’s hearing on the application moratorium for high density loads. Two local businesses owners described the impact the new rate class would have on their business and suggested an alternative approach. A third speaker emphasized the job opportunities brought to the area by server farms. Commissioners set another public hearing for 1 p.m. on March 7, 2016, to gather more public comment and consider further action on the moratorium. They also set public meetings and a hearing to get feedback on the proposed rate class for energy intense users developed since the moratorium on applications was put in place a year ago. Those meetings are set for:
- 5:30 p.m., Monday, Jan. 4, 2016, in the PUD Wenatchee Auditorium, 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.
- 6 p.m., Tuesday, Jan. 5, 2016, at the Chelan office, 1034 E. Woodin Ave.
- 5:30 p.m., Monday Jan. 18, 2016, at the Leavenworth office, 222 Chumstick Hwy
- 1 p.m., Monday, Feb. 1, 2016, public hearing in the Wenatchee boardroom as part of the regular PUD commission meeting
Commissioners approved a new two-year conservation target after hearing from Energy Development and Conservation Manager Andrew Grassell who reported on analysis to establish the District’s next goals to meet its state Energy Independence Act (I-937) requirements. No comments were received at Monday’s hearing to gather public input on the two-year energy conservation target of 1.66 average megawatts. That represents enough energy to power about 690 average Chelan County homes. Grassell said the goal is about 20 percent less than the previous target set in 2013 due to factors including the success of past programs, lower market prices and customer use of more energy-efficient products.
In other business Monday, commissioners:
- Applauded the success of programs designed to increase awareness of PUD career
opportunities by local veterans and Latino and Hispanic job seekers. PUD Human Resources staff organized a workshop for local veterans on Nov. 10, collaborating with WorkSource on job shadows with PUD employees who are veterans and mock interviews. More than 100 Hispanic job seekers attended Discover Us! (Descubrenos) on Nov. 19 to talk with PUD employees and practice interview skills.
- Congratulated Visitor Services Manager Debbie Gallaher who received the state PUD Association Elmgren Public Service Award for her years of work in the community on education and outreach programs including River of Power, Wenatchee River Salmon Festival and with the Foundation for Water and Energy Education (FWEE). Gallaher is a 36-year PUD employee. She oversees Rocky Reach Visitor Center and PUD education programs. This is the second year in a row a Chelan PUD employee received the award. Sarah DeLozier, new services coordinator, was honored last year for her decade-long work on the Andrew York Lineman Rodeo.
- Approved additional investments of $22 million at Rock Island Powerhouse 1 for turbine replacements and upgrades in line with strategic objectives. Engineering and Project Management Director Brett Bickford said analysis shows the investments will result in even more efficient and longer-lasting units. Following Monday’s action, the contract with Andritz Hydro Corp. is now estimated about $95.8 million.
- Directed General Manager Steve Wright to allocate District parcels included in the current Olds Station annexation petition to maintain a neutral position as directed in the annexation policy adopted by the board on Nov. 16.
- 6 p.m., Tues, Dec. 8, Leavenworth City Council chamber - Update on need for new substation
- 5:30 p.m., Weds, Dec. 9, Wenatchee Convention Center – Alcoa community meeting
The next regular PUD commission meeting starts at 10 a.m. on Monday, Dec. 21, 2015, in the boardroom at 327 N. Wenatchee Ave.
Chelan PUD records most commission meetings, and a link to the audio is available on the PUD’s home page at www.chelanpud.org.