Chelan County PUD commissioners Monday listened to comments from 14 people on a proposed rate for cryptocurrency operations that reflects the cost of buying variable-priced market power to serve miners and assures cost recovery for any new infrastructure investments.
Following Monday’s hearing, PUD commissioners extended the moratorium until Aug. 20 to allow time for staff and board members to consider what they heard. Board members will continue discussion of the proposed rate at 1 p.m. at the next board meeting.
Commissioners endorsed a continued cautious approach to setting the new rate. Board Vice President Garry Arsenault thanked those who spoke and asked for understanding of the commission’s responsibility to balance risks from the new load to existing customer-owners and to “safeguard the county’s precious jewel, our hydropower.”
Protecting existing PUD customers while giving the new technology a chance to be successful in Chelan County is the goal of the new rate, said Lindsey Mohns, Customer Utilities business adviser.
General Manager Steve Wright said he hoped the smaller crowd, about 30 people, than at the May 14 hearing reflected progress in increasing community comfort that the impact of serving bitcoin mining and similar operations will be neutral to positive for existing customers. “We’re trying to turn lemons into lemonade through right-sizing our pricing and the amount of service we offer.”
Most speakers said they were cryptocurrency operators. Small miners questioned the impact of a variable, market-based price for power on their operations. One of the larger operators expressed support for the policy, but asked commissioners for consideration for those who have played by the rules so far.
Three people questioned using the PUD’s renewable hydropower for such an energy-intense industry.
This proposal seeks to be consistent with the District’s policy to provide the best value for the most people for the longest period of time.
Studies since the first moratorium hearing in May have shown there is transmission system capacity to serve some cryptocurrency load growth, but costs will significantly increase once that capacity is allocated, Mohns said.
Chelan PUD now serves 22 authorized cryptocurrency and similar data operations, a combined load of up to 16 megawatts. Before the moratorium, requests had come in that could have more than doubled the District’s retail load of 180-200 megawatts.
Information on Chelan PUD’s continuing response to cryptocurrency mining issues is on the website at chelanpud.org/cryptocurrency.