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Re-elect Cindy Carter Grant County Commissioner

PUD leader reports to chamber

 

PUD Commissioner Terry Brewer

A literal power struggle is going on in Grant County, and an electric utility commissioner explained Grant PUD's policies to chamber of commerce members last week.

Commissioner Terry Brewer said the county's irrigators don't like the path the PUD commissioners set when they decided that the utility's core customers, including irrigators, would always get cheaper power made at the PUD's Priest Rapids Dam.

That policy also puts the utility on a course to lessen the subsidy that keeps rates for residential users, irrigators and small businesses low and will keep rates competitive for large industrical users to keep them in the county, Brewer said.

In 2018, Brewer said, residential rates are 26.7 percent lower than the actual cost of providing that power to houses all over the county. Irrigators, who use large amounts of power, pay 35 percent below cost.

But large industrial users, such as Microsoft's server farm near Quincy, pay 31.6 percent above cost. Together with industrial and agricultural processing plants, those high-use industries bring in the most revenue, which pays to keep residential, small business and irrigation rates low, Brewer said.

But a 2015 resolution aims at narrowing the spread between those who overpay and those who underpay. It sets a target of keeping residential rates at 20 percent below cost, small business rates at 12.6 percent below cost and irrigation rates at only 20 percent below cost, all by 2024. Large industrial users would pay only 15 percent above cost.

Irrigators, whose rates in 2017 were 45 percent below cost, are fielding candidates in the November election against Brewer and like-minded Patti Paris, who is running for the seat retiring Bob Bernd has held since 2007.

Brewer, who has served on the PUD commission for 12 years, noted its growth and recent steps commissioners took to stabilize rates and prevent incurrsions from cryptocurrency operators whose operations could use up too much power and for the utility to buy more outside power.

"We're certainly not your grandfather's PUD," Brewer said. "It was very different back in the day when this was a small utility."

He defended the PUD's $1.3 billion in bonds issued as of the end of 2017 as a necessary and reasonable approach for the utility that reported total revenues of $294 million last year.

"It's been beneficial for us to borrow the money to pay for assets that are going to last over the next 20 ... to 50 years, as opposed to raising our customers' rates by 45 percent," he said.

Brewer noted the PUD's debt is half of its asset value.

Brewer's opponent, Judy Wilson, has spoken out against the level of debt the PUD is carrying.

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