Electricity Markets

Chelan PUD board sets new fees, charges for unauthorized crypto miners

Commissioners for Washington state’s Chelan County PUD on April 16 approved new fees and charges for the investigation and enforcement of unauthorized services including cryptocurrency and similar data operations and for the loss of useful life for overtaxed power equipment.

The unanimous action at a PUD commission meeting puts the fees and charges in effect immediately, the PUD noted.

Bitcoin miners are being drawn to the Pacific Northwest states of Oregon and Washington, which feature some of the lowest electricity rates in the country, thanks to available hydropower.

John Stoll, customer utilities managing director at the PUD, reported discovering and shutting off power to three rogue operations the week of April 9.

Cathy Melton, a PUD customer service analyst, presented plans to get information on the new fees and charges, and on the dangers of unauthorized operations, to potential and existing customers by advertising, social media posts, bill messages, mailers and discussions at service clubs and civic meetings.

The action comes as PUD staff continues to find unauthorized cryptocurrency mining. This is occurring two to three a day on average, the PUD noted.

The PUD said that customers found without authorized electric service face fees of up to $6,150 for in-home cryptocurrency operations and $11,400 for those in commercial or light industrial space.

Unauthorized operations deemed a safety hazard will lose power immediately and be assessed all charges and customers also could face prosecution for power theft.

PUD Commissioners extended amnesty for assessing the fees until May 14 in cases where customers without authorized service, and no history of high density load use or suspected use, stop mining immediately and notify the PUD, prior to hearing from the utility.

May 14 is the public hearing on the application moratorium imposed on March 19 for new high-density loads. PUD Commissioners will review the application moratorium for bitcoin mining and similar data operations on that date and take comment at the hearing.

Washington state’s Mason County Public Utility District 3 commissioners on April 10 approved a moratorium on accepting applications for service to “cryptocurrency” operations.

Plattsburgh, New York, and the city of Wenatchee, Wash., recently imposed moratoriums on cryptocurrency mining.

In March, Washington state’s Benton PUD said that in response to growing customer interest in cryptocurrency mining and blockchain operations, coupled with concerns about distribution system safety and reliability, its Commission approved an electricity intensive load policy.