The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) announced today its rates for fiscal years 2018 and 2019, adopting a 5.4 percent average increase on wholesale power rates which will take effect Oct. 1, 2017.  The average transmission rate will see a decrease of 0.7 percent. BPA attributes the rate increase to a variety of factors, including a less than projected demand for power, lower market prices for surplus power sales and rising costs of compliance with legal mandates.

Utilities are affected differently by the rate increase based on the amount of power and services purchased from BPA.  This equates locally to an approximate 3.5 percent increase to Grays Harbor PUD power supply costs or around $3 million over the two year rate period.

“Although any rate adjustment will have an effect locally, we are pleased to see the increase is lower than the originally projected 9 percent,” said PUD General Manager Dave Ward. “Consumer-owned utilities were largely successful in communicating to the BPA that a higher increase would be a burden that public power utilities and their customers could not afford.” 

About 78 percent of the PUD’s power resources come from BPA and power supply is the largest cost in the District’s operations and maintenance budget.  While the PUD has adopted many internal cost-saving measures, BPA rate increases continue to be a significant challenge. 

“Grays Harbor PUD continues to monitor costs internally and reduce spending where it makes sense,” said Chief Financial Officer Kathryn Skolrood.  “We will analyze the financial implications of the BPA rate increase and determine how to best minimize the impact on our customers as we enter into 2018 budget discussions.”

Today, Grays Harbor PUD Commissioners passed a resolution in support of federal legislation that affirms the current operations under the existing Federal Columbia River Power System (FCRPS) Biological Opinion (BiOp). The legislation, H.R. 3144, supports the hydrosystem and the benefits it brings to the region through clean, renewable and affordable power. 

 

Hydropower provides 70 percent of Washington State’s renewable, affordable and reliable electricity and 60 percent of the Pacific Northwest’s electricity, with the majority of the power produced by the FCRPS.  Hydroelectric dams also provide many benefits to the region, including flood control, navigation, irrigation, and recreation.

 

Despite the success of the current FCRPS BiOp, in May 2016 the U.S. District Court for the District of Oregon rejected the plan and directed the government to undertake a comprehensive review of hydro operations under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA).  Judge Simon strongly urged the federal agencies to include analysis of the removal, bypass or breaching of one or more of the four lower Snake River dams.

 

The proposed federal legislation would continue federal hydro operations under the current FCRPS BiOp through September 30, 2022, or until the court-ordered, comprehensive environmental NEPA process concludes, a new BiOp is in place, and judicial review is complete.  The legislation would prohibit studies, plans or structural modifications at the dams which would impair hydroelectric power generation or navigation on the Columbia River, which would create uncertainties in the Bonneville Power Administration’s power costs and supply and raise northwest electric customers’ rates.  It would also continue, as appropriate, the implementation of the plan’s measures to protect and restore salmon. 

 

“We appreciate the ongoing support of our legislators, Representatives Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA), Dan Newhouse (R-WA), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), Kurt Schrader (D-OR) and Greg Walden (R-OR), in proposing this bipartisan legislation,” said PUD Commissioner Arie Callaghan. “This Board supports the proposed legislation affirming the current operations under the exiting BiOp, which we believe provides a reasonable and workable compromise to both protecting the fish runs and providing the reliable and affordable hydropower that is of utmost importance to the utility and our customer-owners.”

 

 


 

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.


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