Some cryptocurrency miners in Washington State are in for a big surprise. Miners operating in Grant County are looking at a 50% increase in their utility bills over the next three years following a unanimous decision by the Grant County Public Utility District (GCPUD) to hike the rates specifically for the miners. The rate hike was justified by the utility district in order to protect customers and preserve low-cost rates for others.
During a meeting of commissioners last week, commission Tom Flint asserted of mining operations, “Your industry is unregulated and high-risk. This is the best way to ensure our ratepayers are not impacted by this unregulated, high-risk business.”
With the new rate structure, miners will see a 15% increase in the prices they pay next year. In 2020, the rate will jump up 35% more than the current rate and will land at 50% more than the current rate the following year. Any new customer that joins the crypto mining industry during that time will pay the then-effective rate.
The GCPUD added that the new rate will compensate the district for “additional risk” and forces customers in the evolving crypto mining industry pay a premium to subsidize the low rates paid by residential, small- and medium-sized business and irrigation customers.
Several mining-related companies were represented at the commissioners meeting. As would be expected, the news didn’t sit well with them and many pointed out the flawed analysis of the commissioners’ decision. The “additional risk” is not valid for mining operations, as the energy usage doesn’t fluctuate as prices do. Additionally, as the crypto markets have become more stable this year – generally fluctuating less than 1% - the risk has been greatly mitigated.
Ed MacDonald, a retired business owner who now relies on cryptocurrency mining operations as his primary source of income, expressed concern that the increase would cause operations to shut down or move elsewhere. He said, “It just doesn’t seem right,” MacDonald said, “that all the people who have come in here and invested a lot of time and money, and now you can change the rules kind of in the middle of the game and force them out of business.”