Electricity Markets

Mason County PUD 3 sets cryptocurrency moratorium

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

The moratorium covers computer or data processing loads related to virtual or cryptocurrency mining, bitcoin, blockchain, or similar purposes. It does not apply to existing approved applications.

“Bitcoin miners are intent on staking their claim to Mason PUD 3’s affordable electricity rates and high speed fiber optic network,” the PUD, which is based in Shelton, Wash., said in a news release.

The moratorium will provide time to evaluate the effect of these energy intensive operations on the local power system and rates, the PUD noted.

“The Pacific Northwest has seen a rush of cryptocurrency operations recently,” said Michele Patterson, PUD 3 power supply manager. “We need breathing room to study the local impact on power demands, the ability of the system to handle these energy-intensive operations, rate structure considerations, and protecting the power supply of existing customers.”

A large grocery store or hospital uses between 30 and 40 kilowatt-hours per square foot, Patterson noted, while computer data processing can use more than 2,100 kWh per square foot.

The safety of the community and other customers is another consideration, the PUD said. Other electric utilities have discovered “rogue” cryptocurrency operations set up in homes or commercial buildings, with no consideration for safety. In these cases, transformers and electrical systems aren’t designed for heavy power loads, which could result in fires, damaging equipment failure, or local voltage fluctuations.

Washington state’s Chelan PUD, along with 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.

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