A Douglas PUD proposal for electricity rate changes would eliminate high-use Bitcoin miners from access to the utility's power in 2028. 

The county's 26 Bitcoin miners and two data centers currently consume the same amount of electricity as the entire county's residential population.  

Douglas PUD spokesperson Meaghan Vibbert says the extremely high-use customers will strain the limits of power from the utility’s Wells Dam as other sources use more electricity and clean energy laws take hold. 

"If we don't have Wells resource, we have to buy power on the open market," said Vibbert. "And in Washington, come 2030, what you buy has to be green, and so those are going to be more expensive options." 

Currently, the generating capacity of Wells Dam is more than what's needed to supply Douglas County customers with power, which allows the PUD to sell excess power on the open market.   

The open market revenue is used to keep retail rates for county customers below what it costs the PUD to produce the power.   

However, demand in the county will grow because of electric vehicle use and economic development. 

In addition, there's an agreement with Okanogan PUD which allows that utility to tap into a percentage of the Wells Dam power generation, and that percentage is set sharply jump from 8 percent to 30 percent in the coming years. 

Currently, Douglas PUD residential customers pay less than a quarter of what it costs to generate that power.  

The PUD receives about $15.2 million a year in revenues from residential customers while it costs $69.3 million to produce that power. 

The PUD can absorb the difference of $58 million because the Wells Dam generates enough excess energy to offset the cost by selling the excess power on the open market. 

Due to the changing power use landscape, PUD staff predict the utility will not be able to produce surplus power in the future. 

Vibbert says eliminating Bitcoin miners from access to PUD power will ease a transition to higher electricity bills for residential customers. 

“Moving them to schedule 4, which is where they procure their market power elsewhere, that frees up those megawatts that they were using of the Wells Project (Dam) for us to use,” Vibbert said. 

 PUD staff proposed a rate hike of $3.00 per month for the average customer at the utility's public meeting this week. 

The rate would go into effect in 2026 with a gradual increase every year through 2030. 

The proposal currently calls for the average monthly customer bill to be about $64.50 in 2026. The amount would increase by about $10 per month by 2030. 

Small commercial businesses would see an average increase of $6.40 per month under the plan starting in 2030. 

Bitcoin miners would have their rates set at two different levels before being cut off from PUD electricity in 2028. Those using the most power would pay a higher rate. 

Once cut off, the 26 Bitcoin miners and two data centers would get delivery from a third party, but delivery would still run through PUD power lines. 

The Douglas County Microsoft data center is already using a third party for its electricity supply 

Three more hearings will be held to gather public views on the proposed rate changes. 

The upcoming hearings are on March 19, and April 2 and 16 at the PUD office, 1151 Valley Mall Parkway, East Wenatchee. All the hearings will take place at 1:30 pm.  

Douglas PUD commissioners will then finalize the new rates in May for a five-year plan that’ll be in place from 2026 through 2030. 

The 6 Best Washington Backroads for a Relaxing Road Trip

More From KW3