Cryptocurrency miners in Grant County will face a 50 percent electricity rate hike over the next three years after the utility district unanimously passed the increase Tuesday.

Grant County Public Utility District said the move was to protect customers from risk and preserve below-cost rates for other customers.

“Your industry is unregulated and high-risk,” said Commissioner Tom Flint said at last week’s commissioner’s meeting. “This is the best way to ensure our ratepayers are not impacted by this unregulated, high-risk business.”

Cryptocurrency, including bitcoin, is a digital form of money that exists apart from government or bank regulation. It’s mined by making complex calculations that verify transactions.

The electric rate increase will be implemented over the course of three years: a 15 percent increase in 2019, a 35 percent increase in 2020, and a 50 percent increase in 2021.

Any new customers will pay the rate that is being phased in at the time.

Grant County PUD said the new rate compensates the district for extra risk and makes “evolving-industry” customers pay more to subsidize below-cost rates for residential, irrigation, and small and medium-sized business customers.

Cryptocurrency miners and investors spoke out at the meeting against the increase, saying it was based on a flawed analysis.

Ed MacDonald, a retired Moses Lake business owner who said his primary source of income is from the cryptocurrency mines, worried the hike would essentially shut down operations.

“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.”