Grant PUD schedules hearings for 2019 budget

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EPHRATA — Grant County PUD will sponsor three public hearings for district patrons to review the 2019 budget next week. Hearings are scheduled for 2 p.m. Tuesday in Ephrata, 6 p.m. Tuesday in Moses Lake and 6 p.m. Thursday in Quincy.

The Ephrata hearing will be at the main PUD offices, 30 SW C St., and the Moses Lake meeting will be at the Moses Lake Fire Department, 701 E. Third Ave. The third meeting is scheduled for the Quincy Community Center, 115 SW F St.

The proposed budget includes a two percent across-the-board rate increase for 2019. That doesn’t mean all the different rate classes will receive a two percent increase – some will be more than two percent, some will be less. That’s one of the circumstances that prompt questions from customers – why isn’t it two percent for all customers?

Different rates between different customer classes is a function of the cost of getting customers electricity. Public information director Chuck Allen used industrial customers and irrigation or residential customers as examples. When an industrial customer uses enough electricity to require a substation, “most of the time they’ve contributed significantly to the cost of building that substation, because their (electrical) load is served by the majority of the equipment that’s in the substation,” Allen said. In addition, “they don’t need the distribution system, they don’t need the step-down transformers, they can take high-voltage power directly into their plant.”

Other customer classes, like residential and irrigation customers, do need distribution systems and equipment to adjust the power flow so they can use it. And that makes delivering power to them more expensive.

Currently some rate classes – industrial, large industrial, large general service and agriculture processing – pay more than what it costs to provide their electricity. In the case of large industrial customers, they’re paying about $22 million more than it costs to provide power, according to revenue and cost projections for 2018. Ag processors are paying about $640,000 more, and industrial and large general service customers are paying about $410,000 more than it costs to provide power.

Large general service customers are mostly businesses and organizations like grocery stores, Big Bend Community College or Samaritan Healthcare.

Those customers are subsidizing other rate classes, like residential, small business and irrigation. Residential customers are paying about $12 million less than it costs to provide electricity, irrigators about $9 million less and general service customers about $3 million less.

Utility district commissioners passed a resolution in 2014 to close part of the gap between the classes – although some classes, identified as core customers, will continue to receive a subsidy. The resolution specifies that the core customers will be paying at least 80 percent of the cost of providing electrical service by 2024. Customers that are paying more than the cost of their electricity will be paying a maximum of 15 percent over the cost of their service by 2024.

The core customer classes include residential and irrigation, general service/small business and large general service.

Cheryl Schweizer can be reached via email at education@columbiabasinherald.com.

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