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Economic and dam related articles

PUD Plans for Future Power Needs

by David Cole
Columbia Basin Herald, November 6, 2006

EPHRATA -- The Grant County Public Utility District's management staff and commissioners have several energy resource options available as they consider their long-term power planning.

"Our responsibility at the PUD is to ensure that we can effectively meet the long-term power demands of our customers -- both old and new," said Tim Culbertson, PUD general manager.

"We are one of the few PUDs that does detailed planning out as far as 10 years," said Culbertson. "When the recent rate of local growth quickly outpaced our existing growth plans, we started a process to take a fresh look at our power supply planning."

Later this month, the commission is scheduled to review a report from PUD staff members on the county's resource needs and supply options.

Currently, the bulk of the utility district's electricity flows from its dams, 62 percent of power output from Priest Rapids Dam, 36.5 percent from Wanapum Dam. Turbine replacements and future upgrades increase the dams' power generating capabilities.

The utility district, Culbertson said, has a greater array of power options than most electric utilities. Some of the PUD's available power resource options, besides the two dams, include:

Culbertson said an effective power resource strategy begins by determining the average power demand and peak power demand in Grant County. Summer peaks, driven by irrigation load, are similar to winter peaks, which are pushed upward by home heating. Industrial load remains nearly constant, year around, he said.

"We receive assistance from local economic development groups," said Culbertson, who's a board member of the Grant County Economic Development Council. "They help our power management people estimate growth in the coming years so we can effectively zero in on average and peak power demand."

The PUD integrates demand estimates with power supply information, he said. The end goal is to develop a strategy providing the best combination of power resource costs and risks, while meeting power reliability standards.

The commission, Culbertson said, reviews the power resource report this fall, once it's assembled by the PUD's power management specialists. The commission then considers policy decisions related to power resources, purchase costs and rate impacts.

David Cole
PUD Plans for Future Power Needs
Columbia Basin Herald, November 6, 2006

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