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Utility district raises cryptocurrency power rates

A Central Washington public utility district has increased power rates for cryptocurrency miners and other evolving-industry firms.
Dan Wheat

Capital Press

Published on August 30, 2018 10:49AM

EPHRATA, Wash. — Electricity rates for cryptocurrency miners and other evolving-industry firms will increase 15 percent next year, 35 percent in 2020 and 50 percent in 2021 in Grant County.

The new Rate 17, adopted Aug. 28 by Grant County Public Utility District commissioners, is designed to charge those customers more than the cost of production to protect the PUD from risk and preserve below-cost rates for core customers such as residents, small businesses and farm irrigators.

Other big power users already pay rates that are above the cost of production.

Adoption of the new rates follows nearly a year of analysis and public comment.

“Your industry is unregulated and high-risk. This is the best way to ensure our ratepayers are not impacted,” Commissioner Tom Flint told a handful of cryptocurrency miners who attended the meeting.

Commissioners differentiated crypto mining from Quincy data centers, which own land, buildings, pay taxes and have solid credit records.

Since summer of 2017, Grant PUD has received new service inquires for more than 2,000 megawatts of power — more than three times the electricity needed to power all Grant County homes, farms, businesses and industry. Approximately 75 percent of those requests are from cryptocurrency miners, who operate large, power-hungry computer setups that “mine” online cryptocurrencies such as bitcoins.

Evolving-industry customers who would otherwise pay a residential rate (Rate 1) of 4.9 cents per kilowatt-hour on a monthly average use of 5,000 kWh would instead pay 13.7 cents per KWh on monthly use anticipated to average 20,000 kWh over the three-year phase in.

Larger evolving-industry customers (formerly Rate 7) whose billing demand is 2 megawatts and a load factor of 92.5 percent would increase from 2.6 cents per kWh to 7.9 cents per KWh with an anticipated monthly average of 5 MW at the same load factor over the three-year phase in.

In both examples, the impact of Rate 17 will vary by customer, depending on energy use above or below the average load of their customer class as a whole, the PUD said.

PUD policy requires power applicants from agriculture, manufacturing and other traditional industries to be fully addressed before the PUD considers hooking up new evolving-industry customers. Evolving-industry customers must also pay up-front costs of lines, poles, transformers, other equipment and studies needed to expand or connect service.

Neighboring Chelan County PUD has extended a moratorium on power applications from cryptocurrency miners that it originally set on March 19 as it continues to consider a proposed crypto power rate.


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