The Trinity Public Utilities District’s plan to adopt a higher rate for “high-impact load” customers got little protest from the cannabis industry at a public hearing last week.
Following the hearing last Thursday, TPUD directors voted unanimously to adopt the rate.
High-impact customers are those who use a large amount of electricity over an extended period, without the fluctuation you might see at a residence, for example, where usage generally drops at night.
This kind of use is hard on the system, TPUD General Manager Paul Hauser said. For example, “transformers don’t have a chance to cool.”
Whether it’s a bitcoin operation or a greenhouse operation, serving these customers will require upgrades to the system, Hauser said.
Indoor cannabis farming is one use that can be “high impact,” and several cannabis farmers and advocates spoke at the hearing.
“I don’t think anybody is that against paying money for better service,” said Jacob Grossman Crist of Hayfork.
The bigger concern is getting access, according to Grossman Crist, who said he has several operations, all of which are off the grid.
“Will you give licensed growers power?” he asked, specifically inquiring as to over 400-amp service.
Director Clarence Rose responded that the short answer is “yes” — if it’s not detrimental to the rest of the system.
In an email to the Journal later, Hauser said anyone can apply for a larger service. Depending on the size of the desired service and the location in the TPUD’s system, an engineering study may be required, paid for by the applicant. Any potential system upgrades required for the new service must also be paid upfront.
Grossman Crist did express concerns that the proposed TPUD high-impact rate would bring the cost close to that of a diesel generator but also said he is in it for the “long haul,” and “If you invest in us, we’re happy to pay you.”
On a similar note, Tom Ballanco said although he has an outdoor grow and isn’t served by the TPUD, he’s glad to see the board working on this.
“I don’t think anybody would not pay extra,” Ballanco said.
Ballanco added that the county could use the upgraded electrical infrastructure to reinvest in other uses and he’d like to see a “boom and build for PUD.”
There were also suggestions from the audience.
Michael Snyder of Weaverville asked if the TPUD had considered the change if someone were to use a solar system.
Hauser responded that he had not, but it’s certainly possible for someone with solar to move out of the High-Impact Load Rate.
Cannabis advocate John Brower said the loads from growers are not 24/7, but vary depending on if the plants are in the vegetative stage or flowering. Farmers can use smart controllers to ramp their use up carefully, he said.
“This is a great opportunity to collaborate between PUD and the operator to help schedule those uses,” he added.
TPUD directors were also encouraged to assist the cannabis industry.
Cannabis is the financial future of Trinity County, Snyder said, “and to quash it is a fool’s errand.”
Regarding questions of the cannabis industry’s viability, Brower said it comes down to whether the TPUD supports the industry or hurts it by dragging out this process of getting power to the growers.
The industry is transitioning fast, he said, and these issues are “time sensitive.”
Unlike another industry that uses a lot of electricity, data mining, Brower said cannabis farming is labor intensive.
“I want to encourage the PUD board to really encourage economic development and local jobs,” he said.
Director Rose said the TPUD has a “deliberate process” involving engineering and costs paid by the applicant to add customers who will have a big impact on the system.
“I don’t want to raise hopes too high,” he said.
Comparing the cost of 10,000 kilowatt hours under the TPUD’s High-Impact Load Rate to the cost under other North State utilities, General Manager Hauser reported the following:
► TPUD High-Impact - $916 in Zone A (Weaverville and Hayfork), and $1,156 in Zone B (remainder)
► Redding Electric Utility - $1,704
► City of Shasta Lake - $1,777
► PG&E - $2,595 (approximate, varies by season)
Asked by Director Richard Morris about the current stresses on the system, Hauser said any significant load added to Big Bar or Big Flat would require upgrades. For the small substation in Big Bar, one customer more than doubled the load, he said.
Lewiston is “maxed,” especially in the summer, and a substation upgrade is planned.
The cause, he said, is “high-impact loads. It’s cannabis.”
After further discussion, Director Kelli Gant said, “I’m not hearing resistance to the rate increase.”
She said the district’s “old, tired infrastructure” was never anticipated to have this kind of a load on it.
During their regular board meeting that followed the public hearing, directors voted unanimously to pass the new High-Impact Load Rate.
The board also held a public hearing and then voted to approve a new promotional rate for new commercial power service with a demand of 25 kilowatts and a minimum of five or more full-time jobs. The promotional rate would include a 60 percent discount from the commercial rate in the first year of operation; a 45 percent reduction in the second year, and 30 percent reduction in the third.
Hauser said existing businesses can use the promotional rate if they expand.
The previous TPUD promotional rate was aimed at larger new commercial power services creating 10 or more full-time jobs and using more electricity. Hauser noted that Fabtron in Lewiston was the only business able to take advantage of the promotion under those terms.
This new promotional rate will exclude high-impact loads.
High-Impact Load definition
The Trinity Public Utilities District High-Impact Load Rate includes a definition based on projected need for infrastructure improvements, load and diversity factors.
For customers identified as high-impact load, under the new rate the monthly System Access charge will be $45. The cost per kilowatt hour for high-impact loads under the proposal would be a little over 8.7 cents in Zone A (Weaverville and Hayfork) and 11 cents in Zone B (remainder).
For comparison, the TPUD’s commercial rate has a System Access charge of $24 or $36 depending on use, and the energy charge for commercial is a little over 7.2 cents per kilowatt hour in Zone A and 9.2 cents in Zone B.