An agreement between the Grays Harbor PUD and Sierra Pacific Industries will allow the utility to save millions of dollars over the next five years.  In addition to increasing the PUD’s financial stability, the agreement with the timber products company will allow Sierra Pacific to continue selling their surplus renewable energy to the PUD for five additional years.

The agreement, approved by Sierra Pacific earlier this month and passed by the PUD Board of Commissioners on Monday, extends the contract through which the energy utility purchases the excess power generated by the renewable biomass cogeneration facility located at Sierra Pacific’s Aberdeen Division.  In exchange for the five-year extension, Sierra Pacific has agreed to lower the cost of the surplus energy to a fixed rate which will save the utility an average of nearly $30.00 per megawatt hour.  Over the next five years, those savings will total an estimated $13.7-million.

“This is a classic win-win situation and a great deal for Grays Harbor County,” said PUD Board President Arie Callaghan.  “The cost savings in this agreement will improve the financial stability for the Grays Harbor PUD while at the same time creating a reliable revenue stream for a company that employs Grays Harbor residents.”

 “This agreement allows us to continue to provide family-wage, manufacturing employment, locally produced forest products, and a cost savings to county residents.  It is an example how organizations can work together for the common good,” said Matt Taborski, Division Manager for Sierra Pacific.

Sierra Pacific’s Aberdeen mill began operations in 2001 and employs over 200 crewmembers. The complex produces dimensional lumber, with the cogeneration facility converting some of the wood manufacturing byproducts into energy.  Under the old agreement, the PUD purchased Sierra Pacific’s surplus power on an increasing scale, rising from $56.33 per megawatt hour in 2011 to a high of $87.43 in 2022 when the contract was to expire.  PUD General Manager Dave Ward says the willingness of Sierra Pacific to agree to renegotiate the contract in exchange for a five-year extension will strengthen the utility’s financial position.

“This is a great example of compromise and cooperation,” said Ward.  “Sierra Pacific was looking for a reliable market for their power and the utility was looking for savings to help our customers.  Those two goals met in the middle to create an agreement that helps both parties.”


Grays Harbor PUD customer power outages and total outage hours plummeted in 2016, making the years reliability numbers some of the best in recent memory.

“Reliability is a critical component of the PUD’s mission,” said General Manager Dave Ward.  “These numbers tell us that our mission and responsibility to our customers is being fulfilled.”

Much like the previous year, the total number of significant outages (50 or more customers) rose in 2016 to 369, but was still 19% under the five year average.  Remarkably the total customer outages fell from 83,755 in 2015 to 59,334 in 2016 while the total customer outage hours fell from 303,880 in 2015 to 171,220.

“I am so proud of the story these numbers tell,” said PUD Commission President Arie Callaghan.  “Every year, the PUD system endures blow after blow from storms and downed trees and yet each year our reliability numbers remain strong.  That tells our customers that their utility is meeting its responsibility to keep the power moving and their system functioning.”

Downed trees and wind storms continue to be the leading cause of outages in Grays Harbor, resulting in 152 service interruptions, or 77% of the utility outages in 2016.  The most commonly impacted areas included the north and south shores of Lake Quinault and the North River, Copalis Beach, Elma Gate and Elma McCleary Roads.

“Moving forward, these numbers tell us the areas on which we need to continue our vegetation management focus,” said Ward.  “As we continue our tree trimming cycle and assemble our capital budget for the coming year, these high outage areas will be the focus of our attention to ensure that the utility resources are directed where they are most needed.”

The Grays Harbor Public Utility District is notifying customers in North Grays Harbor County of a planned power outage beginning at 7:00 AM on June 20, 2017.  The outage is expected to last until roughly 7:00 PM and will impact nearly 850 customers.

The outage will impact all customers north of Axford Prairie including Neilton, Lake Quinault, Amanda Park, Queets and Kalaloch  In the days leading up to the event, all customers will receive written and telephone messages from the PUD notifying them of the upcoming outage.

During the outage, PUD crews will perform multiple system operations projects including tree removal, pole replacement and substation maintenance.

In preparation for this outage, customers are advised to take precautions with any electronic equipment such as computers, televisions, and microwaves by unplugging those items.  You should leave them disconnected until after the power has been fully restored. 

The outage time of 12 hours is only an estimate and power could be restored at anytime as work is completed.  Therefore, it is not safe to do electrical work or repairs during that period of time.

 

The budget compromise agreed upon by the United States House and Senate leadership last week will include funding for the Low-Income Heating and Energy Assistance Program or LIHEAP.  The program, which had been targeted for elimination by the Trump administration, provides financial assistance for home energy bills to low-income utility customers.  Under the budget compromise, LIHEAP will receive $3.39 billion in funding for fiscal year 2017. 

“We are pleased that Congress chose to protect a program that helps our most vulnerable customers keep their lights on and their homes heated,” say PUD Commission President Arie Callaghan.  “In the long run, the elimination of LIHEAP funding would have done little to help the federal budget while hurting hundreds of Grays Harbor PUD customers.”

In the last three years, 2741 Grays Harbor PUD customers have benefitted from LIHEAP program dollars, with 986 receiving nearly a half-million in support in 2016 alone. 

Last month, the PUD commissioners passed a resolution supporting LIHEAP and urging Congress to continue its funding.


 

The Grays Harbor PUD Board of Commissioners have approved a resolution recognizing the value of the clean and reliable power resources available to public utility districts in Washington and throughout the Pacific Northwest.   The resolution, passed on Monday afternoon, specifically recognizes the hydro-electric dams on the Columbia and Snake Rivers and the nuclear power plant at the Columbia Generating Station in the Tri-Cities.

“We are lucky to have carbon free power,” said PUD Commission President Arie Callaghan.  “In an era when energy producers around the world are searching for ways to generate energy with the lowest emission levels possible, in Washington state we already have those resources at our disposal.”

In Grays Harbor, hydro and nuclear power, purchased through the Bonneville Power Administration, makes up about 90% of the PUD’s portfolio.  While power producers in the state and around the country define that power as clean and renewable, these generating sources have come under fire since the passage of Initiative 937, Washington’s version of the Energy Independence Act, in 2006.  As a result the value of those resources is in danger of being overlooked.

“In Grays Harbor, our mission is quality utility services at the lowest practical cost.  The hydro and nuclear power purchased by the utility are the best resources for that mission,” said Commission Vice President Russ Skolrood.  “Public power costs in the Pacific Northwest are among the lowest in the country.  We have the clean and reliable power from the Columbia and Snake Rivers and the CGS to thank for that.”

In addition to recognizing the value of the carbon free energy provided by the dams and the Columbia Generating Station, the commission’s resolution encourages Washington’s leaders to also recognize that value and to support its continuing contributions.

“Washington state is already a leader in the effort to promote clean, carbon free energy.  We should be proud of that,” said Commission Secretary Dave Timmons. 



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