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What’s best for customer-owners guides our response to bitcoin miners

by Christy Shearer | Jan 15, 2018

As you’ve read or heard by now, Chelan PUD has seen a rapid increase in inquires for power. Many of those requests are from potential cryptocurrency miners. In some cases, requests are for large amounts of power – including four mining operations that want 100 megawatts each.  The average Chelan County resident uses about 1500 kw of power.

That also could mean doubling our average retail load of 180 to 200 megawatts. The number of inquiries seeking new service exceeds existing infrastructure and our ability to serve those requests.

The rapid increase in inquiries from bitcoin miners is directly tied to the run up in bitcoin prices. In just a few short years, the price of a bitcoin has gone from $200 to $15,000 and more.

Chelan PUD General Manager Steve Wright said our response will focus on creating value for our existing customer-owners who built and paid for this system and will have to live with any long-term impacts.  Our goal is to make the impacts positive for Chelan County residents.

“County residents took big risks to build what has turned out to be a very low cost system.  The people of Chelan County will have a big say in how we move forward,” Wright said.

Chelan PUD’s Board of Commissioners had the foresight beginning three years ago to develop policies for high-use loads.  There are 16 miners connected now. These new requests are much bigger than what we have seen in the past, but our customer-tested policies provide a good foundation for addressing these new large-use requests along with expanded policies. 

This new round of requests raise serious issues about priorities. The PUD already has an ambitious plan (as adopted in the 2018 budget) and new policies are needed to take into account appropriate rates and fees to existing customer-owners from financial risk.

Chelan PUD also is worried about safety. Homeowners and small businesses may be creating a significant hazard by running high-electric-use cryptocurrency mining computers without telling the utility.  A fire last summer in Entiat was traced to the electric service being overtaxed by unauthorized bitcoin mining.

The financial reward can be tantalizing, but the potential money isn’t worth the safety consequences – which can be severe – affecting not only the mining operator, but their neighbors and PUD line workers, too. 

We will stay in touch with customers and the community, keeping you informed before decisions are made.

Customers considering a bitcoin mining operation, or those operating one who have not notified the PUD, should contact our Customer Service Department at (509) 661-8002 or fill out our application for service found by visiting our High Density Loads page.

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