WENATCHEE, WA – Chelan County PUD Monday stopped taking or processing applications, effective immediately, for electric service for cryptocurrency mining.
PUD board members unanimously imposed the application moratorium after reviewing impacts on utility operations from existing loads and applications for service. This pause will allow lessons learned to be adopted for the existing, under-5 megawatt (MW) rates and policies as well as to develop new rates and policies for above-5 MW loads.
General Manager Steve Wright said impacts from cryptocurrency mining applications are hampering responses to the District’s overall planned work, and threatens the county’s electric grid capacity to meet planned growth. Public health and safety concerns due to rogue operators led to the cities of Chelan and Wenatchee acting to curb operations, especially in residential neighborhoods.
“We do need time to take a deep breath and work through the issues and this may be the best approach,” said Commissioner Randy Smith.
Commissioners set a public hearing on the moratorium for 1 p.m. on May 14. Approved applications with fees and charges paid will go forward.
Inquiries about and applications for cryptocurrency operations significantly increased as the price of bitcoin soared last fall. The trend continues with the number of applications filed so far this year approaching 2017’s total.
There are 19 pending applications from cryptocurrency miners for up to 5 MW each, a potential total load of about 16.3 average MW. There are 22 approved and active high density loads in the county, totaling about 13.5 aMW, said Lyle Moore, Customer Service engineering supervisor. Typical countywide growth in a year is about 4 MW.
Staff also is finding rogue cryptocurrency operations requiring time and effort to investigate and respond, said Moore. Many are in homes without the grid equipment needed to serve heavy load, threatening the safety of neighbors and PUD workers.
Lindsey Mohns, Customer Utilities business manager, said with the moratorium in place, staff will:
- Review and update the existing Schedule 35 rate (under 5 MWs) including considering adding transmission costs and continue to develop rates, fees and processes for service requests of 5 MW or more
- Widely communicate the consequences of unauthorized operations including adding fees for investigation, monitoring and equipment damage
- Keep working with city, county and state building code officials
- Keep adding technology to meet the challenges of detecting and serving cryptocurrency loads
A previous application moratorium for bitcoin mining and similar operations was in place December 2014 until Jan. 3, 2017, as staff developed the rate for use of up to 5 MW.