A report from the Washington State Auditor’s Office has found the Grays Harbor PUD to be in compliance with the Energy Independence Act. Passed in 2006 as Initiative 937, the act requires the utility to obtain 9% of its energy from sources defined as “renewable.” In a report delivered on Tuesday, the Auditor found that the PUD reached its goal of 84,439 megawatt hours in 2018 and 86,856 megawatt hours 2019 through a combination of wind, solar and biomass generation and renewable energy credits. This marks the eighth consecutive year in which the PUD has been in compliance with EIA requirements.
“This report is a message to our customers that their utility continues to responsibly provide energy that is a benefit to the utility and to the environment,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “Washington has been a leader in clean and renewable energy for decades and I am very proud that Grays Harbor PUD continues to play a role in that tradition.”
In a year marked by two significant events, 2019 saw the number of major power outages fall slightly and all measurable system reliability numbers came in well below five year averages. A system reliability report released by the Grays Harbor PUD on Monday revealed that the total number of major outages on the utility system (50 or more customers impacted) was down from 296 events in 2018 to 290 events in 2019. While the total number of customers impacted rose from 54,446 to 57,326, the total hours without service dropped from 198,483 to 181,474.
“Once again our system has performed well under tough conditions and our crews have shown themselves to be amongst the best in the business,” said General Manager Dave Ward. “For several years our emphasis has been on system strength and vegetation management and this report tells us that the work is paying off in the form of fewer outages and fewer hours in which our customers were without power.”
The 2019 numbers were significantly impacted by two events: a storm on January 6th that knocked out power to over 27,000 customers from the ocean beaches to East County and a car versus pole accident in Central Park on February 5th that brought down a transmission pole, interrupting power to over 7,100 customers in Central Park and Montesano.
Downed trees and storm events continued to be the main causes of outages, accounting for 76% of power interruptions in 2019. While the number of tree related outages were below the five year average for the second straight year, Ward says it shows the importance of the utility’s tree trimming and mowing cycle.
“We’ve got to keep at it,” said Ward. “Washington is called the Evergreen State for a reason and without regular attention to tree trimming and undergrowth mowing, you can end up in a situation where blowdowns and falling trees can cause outage numbers to rise.”
At a time when staying connected is more important than ever, the Grays Harbor PUD is teaming together with cities, schools and a large group of state and independent agencies to provide free access to the PUD fiber network. Using mobile hotspots, free Wi-Fi access will be provided at strategic points around Grays Harbor County. Users can simply drive-up or walk-up to the sites and immediately have online access for business, school and a host of other needs.
“Today more than ever, internet access is a critical part of our lives and a way to keep connected to family, schools and businesses. However not everyone has the same level of access, especially in rural Washington. Mobile sites like these will help to change that,” said PUD Core Services Director Rob Hanny, whose office oversees the PUD Telecommunications Department.
As of today, six drive-up sites have been agreed upon in Grays Harbor: McCleary City Hall, the Wishkah Valley School, and the Satsop School were the first, installed at the outset of the pandemic. The PUD has added sites to the Lake Quinault School District building in Amanda Park, the Oakville School District and most recently Olympic Stadium in Hoquiam. Equipment for the sites has been provided to the utility free of charge by the Information Technology Disaster Resource Center, a private, industry funded disaster relief organization.
The local access is part of a larger, statewide effort to provide free Wi-Fi access to Washington residents. Partners in the state’s drive-in Wi-Fi hotspots project include: Washington State University; Washington State Library, part of the Washington Office of the Secretary of State; members of the Washington Public Utility Districts Association (WPUDA) and affiliated nonprofit Northwest Open Access Network (NoaNet); the Washington State Broadband Office; Washington Independent Telecommunications Association (WITA); Washington Technology Solutions (WaTech); and the Office of the Superintendent of Public Instruction (OSPI).
TWell over 100 of the new drive-in hotspots are operational, in addition to 301 existing Washington State Library hotspots identified across the state. All told, some 600 public hotspots will soon be available to keep Washington communities connected.
For complete information and a map of locations, visit www.driveinwifi.wa.gov. The map will be updated as more sites come online.
Citing its important role in irrigation, navigation, recreation and energy production, the Grays Harbor PUD has submitted its comments on the Columbia River System Operations Environmental Impact Statement to the Bureau of Reclamation, Army Corps of Engineers and the Bonneville Power Administration. Authored by those three agencies at the end of February, the EIS supports the Lower Snake River Dams and recommends additional water spill over the dams and increased mitigation efforts to assist salmon run recovery.
Scammers are at it again making calls to Grays Harbor PUD customers, again using PUD numbers to make the calls appear legitimate.
In the last week, multiple PUD customers have reported that they had received a phone call from a number that looks to be from the PUD. Once on the line, the callers demand immediate payment on an account they claim to be overdue and threaten to shutoff power unless a payment is made.
“This scam is very similar to ones attempted in the past, but given the current climate caused by the COVID-19 response, tensions are running higher than normal and scammers are pushing people to make a rash decision. Given that fact, it’s even more important that you do not volunteer your personal information," says Communications Director Ian Cope. "If you get an email or phone call threatening to shut off your power or containing account information you think is suspicious, call the PUD Customer Service office to report the scams and to check on your account status.”
Recipients of such fraudulent phone calls should under no circumstances agree to send money or give bank account, credit card or other personal information. Rather, customers are advised to immediately contact PUD Customer Service at 360-532-4220 to verify the claim.