Public Power Announcements


Franklin PUD Announces New AGM

On April 10, Franklin PUD (Pasco, Wash.) announced that Holly Dohrman has been promoted to the assistant general manager for the utility.

Dohrman has been the power director for Franklin PUD since July 2015 and has over 15 years in the electric utility industry. She has extensive analytical and technical expertise, and project management experience regarding transmission, distribution issues, and other rates and revenue matters regarding power supply and delivery.

“We are excited to have Holly on board with such impressive skills and talents,” said Franklin PUD General Manager Tim Nies. “We are pleased that Holly is taking on this new position of assistant general manager to assist Franklin PUD customers and employees regarding current and future electric utility issues”.

Dohrman is a graduate of Washington State University with a B.A. in social science, and Yakima Valley Community college with an A.A. in engineering.


Large-scale Events Lead to Increase in Grays Harbor Power Outages in 2017

Several significant weather events at the beginning and end of the year led to an increase in the number of power outages for the Grays Harbor PUD (Aberdeen, Wash.) in 2017. While the number of major outages fell from 369 in 2016 to 315, the total number of customers impacted jumped from 59,334 in 2016 to 73,337. That total equaled 264,624 hours in which customers were without power, a sharp rise from 2016 totals.

The 2017 numbers were impacted by several large-scale events in which power was out for a large number of customers. In all, 19 of the major outages recorded impacted 53,666 customers or 73 percent of the yearly total. Among those was the January 17 downing of eight transmission poles on State Route 105 that knocked out power to all of the South Beach area and the November 13 storm that knocked out power to 8,148 customers in North Grays Harbor, the South Beach, and Central Park.

“Living on the Washington coast, we can expect wind storms to have a major impact on our utility system. While 2017 was a tough year, I think it also tells a story about the toughness and dedication of our crews and utility staff,” said Board of Commissioners President Arie Callaghan. “When a storm hit, they worked together to make a plan and then carried it out. In this way, we were able to restore power to our customers as quickly and safely as possible.”

Downed trees, wind, and storm impacts continue to be the main causes of power outages in Grays Harbor, resulting in 73 percent of the 2017 outage total.

“These numbers emphasize the importance of our capital budget and the need to continue our vegetation management cycle,” said Callaghan. “By putting our resources into strengthening high outage areas and regularly trimming trees and mowing undergrowth near our lines, we reduce the likelihood of major outages and fulfill our responsibility to provide reliable service to our customers.”


Crews Continue Inspection of Priest Rapids Dam Spillway Monoliths

As of April 10, Grant PUD crews continue investigating the leakage discovered in spillway monoliths at Priest Rapids Dam. Initial analysis shows that a disbonded lift joint is the source of the leakage. A lift joint is the area between two concrete blocks poured at different times. A monolith is the structure that supports the piers holding up the spillway gates.

Priest Rapids Dam continues to generate electricity and operations continue as usual. There is no threat to property or people. The monoliths are stable, but do merit further investigation.

The monolith lift joint has lost some of its bonding, resulting in the leakage of three to four gallons a minute, which has been detected by the investigative drilling. This leakage has been found through the same lift joint near the base of four of the 22 spillway monoliths.

To date, inspection drilling has occurred through about half of the spillway and will continue throughout the remaining monoliths. This is anticipated to continue into May. The spillway structure is stable and no movement has been detected in the structure. Once the investigation and analysis are complete, Grant PUD officials will make a determination on what, if any, remedies are needed beyond the drilling. The inspection drilling is reducing pressure from the water inflow through the disbonded area of the joint lift.

Late last month, out of an abundance of caution, Grant PUD officials declared a non-failure emergency at Priest Rapids Dam. This was discovered after inspection drilling revealed the leaking in spillway monoliths.

Grant PUD has reduced reservoir elevation behind the dam by approximately three feet. This is still within the normal operating range while inspection work continues. Priest Rapids Reservoir will be held to operating elevations between 484.5 to 481.5 feet above sea level. The maximum reservoir elevation is 488.0 feet. The reservoir will remain at the lowered level at least until the inspection work is complete.


Mason PUD 3 Seeks Breathing Room on Bitcoin Mining Operations

Bitcoin miners are intent on staking their claim to Mason PUD 3’s (Shelton, Wash.) affordable electricity rates and high-speed fiber-optic network.

To provide time to evaluate the effect of these energy intensive operations on the local power system and rates, PUD commissioners Tuesday (April 10) approved a moratorium on accepting applications for service to “cryptocurrency” operations. The moratorium covers computer or data processing loads related to virtual or cryptocurrency mining, bitcoin, Blockchain, or similar purposes. It does not apply to existing approved applications.

The website bitcoinmining.com notes that “with bitcoin (as with other types of virtual currency), miners use special software to process complex data calculations. They are issued a certain number of bitcoins in exchange.” The goal is to process data faster than other miners, maximizing the stockpile of bitcoins one can receive.

“The Pacific Northwest has seen a rush of cryptocurrency operations recently,” said Michele Patterson, PUD 3 power supply manager. “We need breathing room to study the local impact on power demands, the ability of the system to handle these energy-intensive operations, rate structure considerations, and protecting the power supply of existing customers.”

“A large grocery store or hospital uses between 30 and 40 kilowatt-hours per square foot,” said Patterson. “Computer data processing can use over 2,100 kilowatt-hours per square foot.”

The safety of the community and other customers is another consideration. Other electric utilities have discovered “rogue” cryptocurrency operations set up in homes or commercial buildings, with no consideration for safety. In these cases, transformers and electrical systems aren’t designed for heavy power loads, which could result in fires, damaging equipment failure, or local voltage fluctuations.

Other utilities and cities have approved similar moratoriums to allow time to study the effects of cryptocurrency operations on their communities.


Snohomish County PUD Not Pursuing Federal License for Hydropower Project on Skykomish River

After a thorough review of its Integrated Resource Plan, the Snohomish County PUD (Everett, Wash.) Board of Commissioners has directed its staff to pursue a range of future energy resources identified in the plan, with a continued emphasis on cost-effective conservation and renewable energy resources. PUD staff was directed not to pursue a final federal license for the Sunset Falls Hydropower Project on the South Fork Skykomish River at this time. The IRP, a long-range energy planning document, has forecasted that on an annual basis, over the next 10 years, due to expected energy conservation, the PUD will not need the additional energy that the Sunset Hydropower Project would provide. The IRP is expected to be formally adopted by the PUD Commission in May.

“Our planning process has concluded that our considerable success with energy conservation by the utility and its customers has helped minimize the need for new energy resources,” said PUD Commission President Kathy Vaughn. “However, if higher growth occurs over the longer term, 10 years or beyond, the PUD could seek out additional energy resources in the mid-2020s time period.”

Since 2009, the PUD has worked to study and assess the potential for a hydropower project on the South Fork Skykomish River. Working under the guidelines set by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, the PUD sought input from a broad range of stakeholders, including interested members of the public, federal and state agencies, and local tribes. Despite the value of the hydropower project – as a local, carbon-free resource that fits well with higher customer winter demand needs – the PUD has decided not to pursue a final application with FERC for the Sunset Falls Hydropower Project.

The research of the Sunset Project was part of a larger effort by the PUD to identify viable hydropower projects in the region. In 2009-2010 the utility did considerable work to develop a list of 140 sites in four counties in Western Washington. This list was then short-listed to 30 sites and then to about a dozen. Numerous stakeholders provided input to the site reviews. For three sites, FERC draft licenses applications were filed, including the Sunset Project. Two other projects were subsequently developed at Hancock and Calligan Creeks above Snoqualmie Falls, northeast of North Bend, Wash.

The PUD has had considerable success operating hydropower projects in Western Washington. Both its Jackson Hydropower Project and its Youngs Creek Project have been honored for their design and operations by environmental and energy industry organizations.


Equipment Failure Causes Two Brief Outages in St. Helens

About 1,000 Columbia River PUD customers in St. Helens, Ore., experienced two brief outages on April 11.

The first outage occurred at 6 a.m. and lasted for two minutes. A second outage at 11:30 a.m. lasted for 20 minutes.

Columbia River PUD identified the cause of both outages as a faulty load tap changer in its St. Helens Substation. The PUD has re-routed power from neighboring Rosehill and Tarbell Substations to serve customers while crews repair the faulty equipment. 

The PUD’s electric system is designed to be able to deliver power down multiple paths. If there is an issue at one substation, the PUD can serve customers from neighboring substations while repairs are completed.

“We design our system like this so our customers will not be out of power for an extended period of time if we have to repair or replace equipment,” said CRPUD Engineering Supervisor Branden Staehely.


Tri-Cities Utilities Announce RiverFest 2018

Franklin PUD, Benton PUD, and Benton REA have joined businesses, community organizations, and people of all walks of life throughout the region to host RiverFest 2018. RiverFest 2018, a fun and educational family event, will feature exhibitors, vendors, and entertainment to showcase all the benefits of the Federal Columbia River Power System and highlight the four lower Snake River dams, including navigation, irrigation, recreation, and power.

“RiverFest 2018 will help raise awareness about the overall hydrosystem, specifically the Snake River dams that are vital to our economy,” said Colin Hastings, chairman of RiverFest 2018 and CEO of the Pasco Chamber of Commerce.

RiverFest will be held Saturday, September 8, from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the east end of Columbia Park in Kennewick, Wash.

Over the years there has been a continued movement to have the four Snake River dams removed. At the same time, billions of dollars have been invested in the dams to mitigate the impacts to fish. This has increased downstream salmon migration survival rates to 1960 levels, before the Snake River dams were constructed.

The dams are valuable components of the Northwest’s clean, carbon-free, low-cost hydropower that thousands of jobs rely upon. Dam removal would kill jobs, take away clean, renewable power, eliminate river navigation, impair the environment, and hurt agriculture – and there is no scientific proof that removing the dams would actually help salmon recovery.

Save the date and plan on attending with your family and friends. Contact the Pasco Chamber of Commerce (509) 547-9755 for more information regarding sponsorships, exhibitors, and vendor opportunities.


EISAC Update

NWPPA has encouraged all its public power utility members to sign up for the Electric Information Sharing and Analysis Council (EISAC) irrespective of size and irrespective of whether or not the utility has transmission assets. 

The EISAC has posted the following notice on April 13, 2018. 

To the Electricity Subsector Coordinating Council:

As you may have seen, at 9:00 p.m. EDT President Trump announced precision missile attacks against Syria in response to that regime’s recent use of chemical weapons.  

While we are not aware of any credible physical or cyber threats to the North American energy grid, out of an abundance of caution and in consultation with our government partners, the ESCC Secretariat has been asked to remind the sector to be vigilant as retaliation from Syria or its allies could target U.S. critical infrastructure.  

In particular, Russian intelligence agencies have repeatedly demonstrated world-class cyber warfare capabilities and a tendency to engage in strategic misinformation campaigns. Please remind your teams to be vigilant, think critically, and seek ground truth from trusted sources. And while the geopolitical situation is challenging at this time, it also is worth considering the potential for retaliation over a longer timeframe. The Electricity Information and Analysis Center (E-ISAC) has posted sector reports and other information to its portal (found here), and will remain a resource for your technical staffs.


Boost Community Affairs Activities with Coloring Book on Utility Poles, Safety

Utilities can get an assist in expanding their community affairs activities and communicating important safety information on overhead lines with a new, customizable coloring book developed by the North American Wood Pole Council.

The 16-page book, “Electricity from Tree to Me,” is designed for children from kindergarten through elementary school. It explains how wood utility poles are made from sustainable and renewable trees.

In addition to illustrations that can be colored, there is a word search page highlighting important words from the illustration pages.

NAWPC has created a companion lesson plan for teachers who want to use the coloring book in the classroom. The lesson plan provides learning objectives and suggestions for classroom discussions to engage students.

The book is designed to be customized with utility information on the inside cover page and the back cover. The pages can feature colored artwork, such as a utility or company logo, so it can be integrated into utility community affairs programs.

Custom color books are available for less than a dollar each for 1,000 or more copies. Quantities of 500 and 750 copies are also available at discounted prices.

The NAWPC edition of the book is available at no charge for up to 50 copies. For quantities of more than 50, the cost is $1 each. For information on customizing the color book or to order the NAWPC edition, contact NAWPC at info@woodpoles.org.

NAWPC is an independent council representing the producers of wood poles and crossarms in North America.


Opinion: Making Earth Day matter in Alameda

Update provided by the East Bay Times (04/10/2018)

When Earth Day first launched in 1970, it signaled the rise of the modern environmental movement in the United States. Today, more than one billion people celebrate Earth Day across the globe, bringing international attention to the environment.

Here in Alameda, we can take inspiration from the legacy of Earth Day as we address our island’s environmental challenges.

I am proud of our city’s Public Utilities Board and Alameda Municipal Power (AMP) for our work to protect Alameda and the planet from the harmful effects of climate change.

As we prepare to celebrate Earth Day on April 22, I am happy to share information about AMP’s history and current policies so Alamedans can better understand our community-owned utility’s long and ongoing commitment to the environment. 

Supporting clean energy for decades

In the 1980s, AMP was one of the first utilities to invest heavily in renewable power through development of geothermal resources at the Geysers in Northern California. This was followed by years of investment in other renewable energy sources including wind, landfill gas and hydropower. By 2011, the utility easily exceeded the state’s Renewable Portfolio Standard, or RPS, that requires electric utilities to purchase a growing percentage of their electricity from renewable sources by 2030.

In fact, AMP developed so much renewable energy that we have been able to strategically sell portions of it on a short-term basis to other utilities struggling to meet the state RPS mandate. AMP estimates that these renewable energy credit agreements (referred to as REC sales), which run from 2012 to 2019, will generate about $32 million of additional revenue to our utility.

At the direction of the Public Utilities Board, the funds from these short-term sales must be used for local investments in programs that reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with electricity use.

To date, AMP has used approximately $15 million of this funding for energy-saving projects to help residents, businesses, schools and city facilities reduce their energy use with upgrades to lighting, appliances, HVAC, refrigeration and more. Staff is currently evaluating a community solar program and planning more greenhouse gas reducing projects.

Additionally, AMP has used some of this funding on a comprehensive metering infrastructure upgrade, enabling the utility to bring the many benefits of current smart meter technology to Alamedans. This allows our customers to continue to benefit from rates that average 15 percent to 17 percent lower than those in surrounding areas served by PG&E or East Bay Community Energy. With the more comprehensive data from digital meters, Alamedans will be able to further lower their carbon footprint because AMP will be able to develop more effective energy efficiency, solar and electric vehicle programs.

AMP’s short-term sales of renewable energy end in 2019. I am proud to announce that 100 percent of AMP’s resources will be carbon neutral starting in 2020. As a result of diligent planning and aggressive goals, we will meet our energy needs with only carbon-free power for years to come.

This achievement aligns with the ambitious and important goals outlined in the city of Alameda’s Local Action Plan for Climate Protection. AMP participates on the city’s Green Team, which is working to update the climate action plan.

Click here to read the full article.


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