Clallam County PUD (CCPUD) Commissioners, elected by customers and community partners, serve to provide policy oversight and guidance in accordance with the vision to “Be the best utility for our customers” and the mission to “Provide reliable, efficient, safe, and low-cost utility services in a financially and environmentally responsible manner.”

The Board of Commissioners provide oversight for the PUD’s operation, (including securing an affordable, reliable supply of wholesale power) and collaborate with other Washington PUDs to influence legislation and policy that could have the potential to impact the utility’s operation, rates and customers.

Energy issues are complex and it will take knowledgeable, experienced commissioners to navigate the challenges ahead of us as we work with others in the region to address climate change mitigation and work with our own customers (and the region, where appropriate) to address local issues all while maintaining an affordable, reliable supply of electricity and affordable rates for CCPUD customers.

This FAQ is intended to provide additional information about a few of these complex issues and is based on questions I’ve been asked or have heard about. Feel free to contact me if you have other questions or would like more information.

Frequently Asked Questions

Question: Are there better sources of power than the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA)?

Answer:
The short answer is no. As a public power entity, we are fortunate to have access to the Federal Columbia River Power System’s carbon-free hydro generation and the carbon-free nuclear, wind, solar, and hydro generation owned by Energy Northwest and marketed through the BPA, one of US Department of Energy’s power marketing agencies. BPA is the least expensive, non-carbon source of energy in the entire country. Our BPA contracts represent 98% of our energy at a cost well below current market rates or other renewable options available. Because of this, your PUD has already met Washington state’s mandate to achieve carbon neutrality by 2030 through the least expensive option.

But public utilities are also considering options to comply with Washington state’s Clean Energy Transportation Act (CETA) which mandates an electricity supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. Seven BPA customers have already been approved to take more BPA power because all other CETA compliant alternatives are more costly. If our BPA supply is substituted with other, more costly sources CCPUD rates will rise and we will take a step backward in achieving carbon neutrality.

Question: Does Clallam PUD have the highest rates among PUDs?

Answer:
Comparing CCPUD’s retail electricity rates to another utility (in Washington state, California, or across the nation) is a bit like comparing apples to oranges. Each PUD uses a formula based on the cost to serve its customers. Rate design is complex and unique to each utility, depending on miles of line, service territory size and topography, type of customers served (industrial, residential, irrigation) and other factors. There are two main components, the fixed charge and kilowatt hour charge. The basic or fixed charge is meant to equitably spread the fixed costs of each utility’s unique system across all customers. The kilowatt hour charge is also unique to each utility and depends on source of generation, i.e. utility-owned, purchased on the open market, or purchased under long-term contracts. CCPUD purchases wholesale power under long-term contracts from the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA), a US Department of Energy power marketing agency. 

Question: Would adding a second BPA transmission line on the north Olympic Peninsula solve BPA outages on the West end?

Answer:
Not without increasing electric rates by more than 30 percent. CCPUD customers want reliability, but they also want affordable rates. We’ve explored options for improving reliability throughout CCPUD’s service territory, but the reality is that in many cases, it is cost-prohibitive. CCPUD would have to fund any new BPA transmission line, and in this case we estimate it would cost more than $250 million to build. We would also have to fund future ongoing operations and maintenance. With current interest rates, that debt would increase electric rates more than 30 percent.

Question: Should CCPUD should use some of its $27 million reserves to bring broadband to its electric customers?

Answer:
The answer is no for a number of reasons. First, our bond covenants and credit rating require CCPUD to have money in reserve to cover a Cascadia earthquake event, severe storms, fires, and other catastrophic events. Reserves are funded by electric customers. Using our $27 million reserves for broadband is irresponsible, would mean shifting funds from the electric system to broadband, and would put us in violation of our bond covenants and impact our excellent credit rating and ability to finance future projects.

In addition, CCPUD has only recently been given the authority under Washington state law to enter the retail broadband market. Prior to 2021, CCPUD only had authority to deploy broadband at a wholesale level, which is why it collaborated with other regional entities and BPA to bring affordable broadband infrastructure (wholesale) to underserved areas in Washington state without shifting broadband costs to the electric utility rates. Our fiber optic loop between Port Angeles and Sequim is an essential part of regional security and open broadband access. CCPUD uses this system for internal use and wholesale communications and offers excess capacity to local ISPs to sell directly to the public (which they do to customers in Port Angeles and Sequim).

We now have retail authority under state law, which means we have the authority to deploy broadband directly to homes and businesses. But, it’s not as easy as it sounds. High population areas like Port Angeles and Sequim are already served, leaving sparsely populated areas with topographical challenges much like those we have with our distribution lines (roughly 2,000 sq. miles). We have estimated the cost at more than $150 million. Right now, the only way to pay for that would be through electric rates.

Question: Is CCPUD preparing for electrification of transportation?

Answer:
Yes. In ways that don't significantly impact electric rates. This is an important issue not only to our economic health and well-being but to ensure we comply with the Clean Energy Transformation Act (CETA) which commits Washington to an electricity supply free of greenhouse gas emissions by 2045. It will require a deep understanding of the issues and mandate as well as a willingness to collaborate with our customers and others in the region to address. Fact is, we are a small utility and to support and fund research and development programs on our own would mean increasing rates. That is why we are partnering with others in the region including Pacific Northwest National Laboratory and Energy Northwest on new developments, batteries, catalysts, biofuels, lighter metals, and innovative manufacturing processes to prepare for our changing transportation mandates and needs.