Business, North America, Technology and Equipment

Grant County PUD adopts increased power rates for bitcoin mining operations

In the U.S. state of Washington, Grant County Public Utility District has approved a three-year, graduated increase to a new, above-cost electric rate cryptocurrency miners and other “evolving-industry” firms.

The aims of the rate adjustment include protecting Grant PUD from risk and preserving below-cost rates for core customers.

Commissioners have unanimously approved the new Rate 17 for evolving industries, following nearly a year of analysis, staff outreach to the county’s cryptocurrency firms and public comment on the new rate at every commission meeting since the rate initially was proposal in early May.

“Your industry is unregulated and high-risk,” said Commissioner Tom Flint to the cryptocurrency miners who attended the meeting. “This is the best way to ensure our ratepayers are not impacted by this unregulated, high-risk business.”

Flint’s fellow commissioners agreed and differentiated cryptocurrency mining from the data centers in Quincy and elsewhere, which own land and buildings, pay taxes, have solid credit records, store customer information and provide internet-based services.

“I don’t view miners as villains,” Commissioner Larry Schaapman said. “You have likened yourselves to the data centers, but you can only do one thing — mine bitcoin.”

Rate 17 customers will receive a 15% increase next year, a 35% increase in 2020 and a 50% increase in 2021, when the new rate will be fully in effect. Any new evolving-industry customers would come in at the rate-phase in effect at the time they begin operations.

Each annual increase will be calculated on the difference between what the evolving-industry customer is paying now (per kilowatt-hour) and the higher, target rate.

For examples of how the rate will apply, click here.

Grant PUD staff recommended a gradual phase-in for the new rate to limit rate shock for existing evolving-industry firms, while giving Grant PUD staff time to see how prospective evolving-industry customers respond to the new rate.

At this time, all Grant PUD customers in the evolving-industry profile are miners of cryptocurrency, including bitcoin, each with very high energy demand. Grant PUD will evaluate the rate class annually and adjust it, based on the anticipated change in total megawatts needed by existing and incoming evolving-industry customers.

Since summer 2017, Grant PUD has received new service inquiries for more than 2,000 MW of power – more than three times the electricity needed to power all Grant County homes, farms, businesses and industry. About 75% of those requests are from cryptocurrency miners.

Grant PUD has a total electric generating capacity of more than 2,100 MW. This comes from two hydro projects on the Columbia River and two smaller hydro generators, as well as a share in the Nine Canyon Wind Project.