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Securing TIDs future
2011 sees electric rate increases, major construction projects for District
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Looking back on the past year, two words define the work of the Turlock Irrigation District, according to TID General Manager Casey Hashimoto.

Reliability, and security.

Those two driving concerns led to the start of construction of two major projects: the state of the art, quick-firing, 174-megawatt Almond 2 Power Plant in Crows Landing, and the $25 million, 11 mile Hughson-Grayson Transmission and Substation Project.

The $200 million A2PP’s three turbines are the first of their kind, able to go from offline to peak power in as little as 10 minutes. That flexible power generation will allow the District to better respond to fluctuating renewable energy resources; wind turbines and solar panels are somewhat unpredictable, as wind and sunlight can come and go with little warning. The plant is also expected to reduce emissions and protect against power outages.

The Hughson-Grayson project will add capacity, allowing TID to meet future growth projections. And the high voltage 115-kilovolt transmission lines will improve reliability and system redundancy for consumers in Ceres and the surrounding rural regions; previously, the region was served only by low-voltage, 69-kilovolt lines.

Both the A2PP and Hughson-Grayson projects provided a needed service, but those upgrades didn’t come cheap. The added costs, plus the expense of TID’s 2009 Tuolumne Wind Project – a 136.6 megawatt, $427 million wind power plant in Klickitat County, Wash. – led TID to approve a multi-year electric rate increase which took effect in January.

“In the wake of environmental mandates from our state, the reliability and security that we so desperately seek for our customer-owners came at a price,” Hashimoto wrote. “And that meant an electric rate increase beginning in 2012 was both prudent and unavoidable.”

The 4 percent annual rate increase in 2012, 2013, and 2014 amounted to about $3 per month for the average TID household in 2012. By 2014, homes will pay an average of roughly $11 more per month, compared to 2011 rates.

The increase appears on ratepayers’ bills as a new, “Environmental Charge,” intended to attribute the rate change to onerous state laws. The district’s investment in the Tuolumne Wind Project was driven by state requirements that the district source 33 percent of its energy from renewable resources by 2020.

According to the district, even in 2014 the Environmental Charge will still fall short of the true costs of meeting state mandates. TID had not raised rates since 2009, when electric costs went up 15 percent system wide.

The district posted other accomplishments, such as the installation of an electric vehicle charging station at a Patterson hotel. The station will help TID assess how the growing popularity of EVs may affect energy demand.

The district website was updated, adding a page on water statistics to help growers plan their crops. That website also includes data from two weather stations installed by the district last year, collecting up-to-the-minute data on weather conditions at TID’s Canal Drive office and at the Don Pedro Visitors Center.

The District received a Northwest Public Power Association Safety Award for safe in-house practices. And TID continued its First Responder Training Program, initiated in 2010, which teaches fire, law enforcement, and public safety personnel how to remain safe when facing downed electrical wires and other common electrical issues.

TID earned other plaudits, too, including a successful North American Electric Reliability Corporation audit, and an award from the National Hydropower Association for the creation of an animated water safety video intended to protect children.

Other challenges face the district in the coming months, with the federal relicensing of the Don Pedro Project chief among them. The multi-year project began in 2010 and will continue until April 2014, with the district scheduled to complete 35 different studies in 2012 and 2013 to assess the project’s effects on the Tuolumne River. The outcome of that relicensing effort could impact the amount of water TID can make available to consumers.

But despite the challenges of new state laws, increasing environmental restrictions, and relicensing Don Pedro, the District will continue to provide water and power to its consumers, as has been its mission since the district’s 1887 founding, Hashimoto wrote.

“TID has long resolved to provide safe, reliable and affordable water and power to its customers,” Hashimoto wrote. “The (fiscal) year 2011 was a testament to that mission.”