Clallam PUD, Other Districts
by Leah Leach
SHELTON - Commissioners and staff members from Clallam County Public Utility District and two other districts will discuss how to keep a lid on rates while ensuring a dependable power supply as they negotiate new contracts with Bonneville Power Administration.
Clallam, Lewis County and Mason County public utility district representatives will talk over options during a public workshop at 307 West Cota St., Shelton at 1 p.m. Tuesday.
Electrical power in East Jefferson County is provided by Puget Sound Energy, not a public utility district.
They may discuss the possibility of joining with other utility districts to form a joint action agency, said Doug Nass, general manager of the Clallam district, on Friday.
The situation is this:
"All the BPA's customers, of which we are one, will sign new contracts by the end of the year," since the past contracts have elapsed, Nass said.
Clallam PUD - which also provides water, sewer and broadband services - has about 28,500 electricity customers in Sequim, Forks and the unincorporated areas of Clallam County.
The district buys 99 percent of its electrical power from Bonneville, the federal power marketing agency that supplies wholesale power to the Northwest.
Power availability has changed since the elapsed contracts were signed.
"In the past, Bonneville had enough power for all its customers, but now it's getting to the point that it cannot provide all the power to all its customers," Nass said.
So the options utilities such as the nonprofit Clallam PUD have are, simply put, to either purchase additional power from other sources themselves, or buy it from Bonneville after the agency develops new sources.
If Clallam PUD buys the additional power from Bonneville, it likely would pay a higher rate than it pays now - with the increase passed on to customers.
That's something Nass wants to avoid.
"Our goal is to keep rates as low as possible to serve customers, at same time providing reliable power," he said.
Clallam PUD has about 20 rate classifications. Its residential rate is 6.2 cents per kilowatt hour, Nass said.
Its rates are at about mid-range for utility districts, he added, saying that investor-owned utilities, such as PSE, tend to be higher, while others are lower.
Another aspect of the situation is the deadline looming for Clallam PUD and other utilities to obtain some power from renewable sources.
Initiative 937, which was approved by the state's voters in November 2006, requires investor- and consumer-owned utilities with more than 25,000 customers to obtain 3 percent of their energy from renewable sources from 2012 to 2015.
The requirement increases to 9 percent from 2016 to 2019, then to 15 percent by 2020.
Renewable sources are such technology as wind or solar power, biomass, or even landfill gas, Nass said.
At Tuesday's workshop, representatives of the three utility districts "are getting together as a group to discuss what our options are," he said.
The group will explore Bonneville's product choices - meaning primarily if they will get specific allocations of power or receive it as needed - discuss rate possibilities, and perhaps discuss forming a joint action agency.
Attorney Terry Mundorf of the Mill Creek firm of Marsh Mundorf Pratt Sullivan and McKenzie, who is the utility district's Bonneville contract negotiator, will brief district representatives.
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