Sep 30 , 2009
The Spokane County United Way
campaign kicked off about a week ago with the United Way Day of Action. The 2009 campaign goal of $4.8 million was announced amid a flurry of volunteer activities by employees of Avista and many other companies around the Spokane area. Check out the video
above for a look at the campaign kickoff and what the Day of Action was all about.
Sep 30 , 2009
As we noted here in August, we’ve requested around a 20 percent decrease in natural gas rates due to the declining cost of wholesale natural gas. This decrease is still pending, but is likely to be approved. Today, we’ve announced an all-party settlement in our request to increase rates (the portion that pays for expenses and capital investments made to our system to ensure the safe, reliable delivery of natural gas). That increase settlement, if approved by the Public Utility Commission of Oregon would increase rates 7.1 percent.
The bottom line: a 13% decrease in rates
The bottom line is that our two requests should result in a 13 percent decrease if approved, since we’ve requested two things: a -20 percent (cost of gas) and a +7.1 percent (cost of service delivery). For an Oregon customer using an average of 52 therms of natural gas per month, the net result should be a $10 cost savings each month. It’s expected that both requests, if approved, will take effect on Nov. 1.
Now, hold on a minute.
Why would we tell customers in August that we’re requesting to lower rates 20 percent due to the cost of wholesale gas, when we were asking for an increase at the same time for a different part of rates? The requests are independent of each other and happen on different timelines
, which is certainly a bit confusing. These independent requests, if approved, will both become effective Nov. 1, right when the winter heating season kicks in. The bottom line is that customers are expected to see a 13 percent decrease, or $10 per month savings – the lowest rates since 2004.
If you have any comments or questions, drop us a line in a comment or e-mail
Sep 28 , 2009
It’s been 50 years since Avista’s Noxon Rapids Hydroelectric dam
first generated electricity. That’s half a century of supplying clean renewable energy to residents of Idaho and Washington. We’re not letting this event slip by without a bit of celebration. This Thursday, Oct. 1, we’re going to rededicate the dam in a public ceremony that you can attend. We’ll also be providing rare tours of the dam (yes, actually inside the thing).
During this same event we’re also recognizing the 10-year anniversary of the Clark Fork Settlement agreement. This is a multi-stakeholder agreement for managing and protecting the natural resources associated with the hydro project. This agreement has been held up across the country as a model of doing hydro projects the right way.
If you’d like to attend the event, be at Pilgrim Creek Park in Noxon, Mont., noon MST. Buses will take you to the dam overlook for ceremonies. The rededication ceremony will begin at 1 p.m. at the lower Noxon Rapids overlook, and will include remarks by Scott Morris, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Avista Corp., Richard Opper, director of the Montana Department of Environmental Quality, and a representative of Montana Trout Unlimited.
The community celebration will be held at Pilgrim Creek Park beginning at 3 p.m., and will include public tours of Noxon Rapids Dam, as well as a picnic, music, displays and poster contest awards.
A dam tour for those attending the ceremony begins at 2 p.m. Buses leave Pilgrim Creek Park for the two other public tours of the dam at 4 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. Tours should take 90-minutes including roundtrip drive time. Noxon is not a public facility and therefore is not ADA accessible. Tour participants must be able to walk for an extended period of time and climb stairs. You must register and show photo ID to take the tour. Children under 18, must register and be accompanied by an adult. Wear close-toed comfortable walking shoes.
All times are Mountain Time.
Sep 25 , 2009
Starting on Sunday Sept. 27, and continuing on for the next few weeks throughout our service territory, we’ll be running paid media about being a regulated utility. The ad will run twice in each of our service territory newspapers.
People often ask me why we change our rates (up or down). I wish the answer was simple each time, but with the complicated nature of the electric and natural gas utility industry, there are always many reasons backing up every action.
I think we’ve done a pretty decent job on this blog explaining our actions about rates, but there is always this ever-present question hanging over the conversation, “Isn’t Avista a monopoly?” This question implies that we’re unregulated. That is certainly not true. We’re a regulated utility in three states and we can’t simply raise our rates whenever we want.
Here’s an example: when costs go up, some types of businesses can respond by simply raising their prices. We’re different. We’re a regulated utility – and because we’re regulated, our rates are set through a long, detailed and transparent public process.
The bottom line is that our rates can’t change without state approval.
We’re using paid media such as the newspaper ads linked here to reach you directly. Let’s head off an obvious question – why pay for ads when you can just insert something in my bill? The truth is (and if you’re being honest, you’ll agree), you probably don’t read everything that comes in your monthly paper bill or e-bill.
This is an important topic that we want you to be knowledgeable about, so we’re spreading the word this way. We want to share this story and get your thoughts on it. You can send us an e-mail
, or comment on this post – or any post – for all customers to see. You can also find out more about being a regulated utility on our Conversation page
Over the last few months we’ve been able to use e-mail, blogs, twitter, discussion forums, in-person meetings and paid media to have real-life conversations with thousands of you out there.
I’m confident that this frank dialog will continue to be beneficial for us all.
Sep 24 , 2009
Last week we kicked off the Spokane County United Way campaign with the United Way Day of Action. One of the events on the schedule was a mobile food bank hosted by the Second Harvest Food Bank at the Salvation Army in Spokane. Avista CEO Scott Morris along with employees from Avista, Premera and the United Way campaign cabinet helped distribute vegetables, milk, juice, salad greens, bread and rolls, and a dessert to more than 125 families over about three hours.
During a break from the event, Morris, who is the Spokane County United Way chair for the second year in a row, took a few minutes to share his thoughts on the United Way campaign, what it means to our community and on Avista’s involvement.
is raw, uncut footage and please pardon the color levels (I’m still working that out!) The video will open in a new window.
Sep 24 , 2009
Today we announced that Avista is seeking proposals from suppliers of renewable energy. Qualified projects would include wind, solar, geothermal, biomass, qualified hydroelectric, and other eligible renewable resources that meet Washington’s renewable portfolio standard.
We’re looking for these resources to deliver customers renewable power in addition to the renewable hydroelectric and biomass projects we currently operate. As a company we’re required maintain a renewable portfolio, which was defined in Washington in I-937. This was an initiative passed by Washington voters in November 2006 and requires utilities to have 15 percent of their load served by new renewable energy by 2020. (Note the definition says “new” renewables).
We want to get the lowest-cost resources in place to keep customer rates as low as reasonably possible. Seeking these proposals now, means we can take advantage of federal and state tax incentives – saving money.
It’s a pretty interesting time in the utility business. While the light switch in your house looks pretty much the same as it did 30 years ago, the resources that power it (and everything else in your house) are certainly being ever more diversified.
Here’s the news release
with a few more details. I’ll keep you posted on this project as things come up.
Sep 23 , 2009
Biomass wood waste.
Avista’s focus on biomass centers on its Kettle Falls, Wash
., wood waste burning plant. The term “biomass energy” refers to the organic matter in trees, agricultural crops and other living plant material burned to create energy. Avista’s focus has centered on wood waste of various types.
In Kettle Falls, wood waste, which we call “hog fuel” is fed into a seven-story furnace/boiler and burned, creating heat. The walls of the furnace/boiler consist of pipes filled with water that are heated by the burning hog fuel. The optimal burning temperature is 2,000 degrees, resulting in a steam temperature of 950 degrees. The heated water generates stream and pressure that drives a turbine, which turns a generator, creating electricity.
The plant can generate about 53 megawatts from biomass alone – 61 megawatts combined with a natural gas-fired turbine at the plant. This is enough electricity to power 46,000 homes.
Earlier this month we announced that Avista is testing a biofuel (biodiesel) in some its trucks in an effort to green its fleet. This fuel is made from oil crushed from Washington-grown canola seeds and is not the same stuff burned in our power plant in Kettle Falls.
The Kettle Falls Generating Station is an intricate plant with many interesting machines and processes. For a closer look at what the plant looks like, please view this online slideshow
with captions included.
Sep 22 , 2009
Avista crews work on a substation in Pullman last spring.
About 3,400 Avista customers in Deer Park and Clayton will briefly lose power on Tuesday, Sept. 29 and Wednesday, Sept. 30, between 4 a.m. and 5:30 a.m. Crews will be performing maintenance on the substation serving the area.
“We apologize for the inconvenience these two brief outages will cause. However, it is important that we create a safe environment in which crews can work,” said Frank Binder, Avista’s operations supervisor for Deer Park in a news release. “Maintenance on the substation will help ensure the reliability of the equipment serving our customers.”
Like I’ve said before with planned outages – make sure your alarm has a battery or charge your cell phone the night before and set the alarm on that. No excuses for being late to work, right?
We do planned outages because there is some work that we’re not able to perform on live electric lines or equipment. For the safety of our crews and the public, we shut off the juice for a period of time. We do our best to let people know about planned outages through flyers, notices in the newspaper, phone calls and even this blog and website – but it’s easy to miss that stuff. If you know of a neighbor, friend or family member who might have missed these notices, do us and them a favor and give them a ring to double check.
Sep 22 , 2009
“We’ve Made History Together!” This isn’t just a teaser on publicity materials for the anniversary celebration of Noxon Rapids Dam and the Clark Fork Settlement Agreement, it’s a true statement. Avista has been providing energy to people and been part of the communities in the Inland Northwest since 1889. And the 50th anniversary of the first power generated at Noxon Rapids provides another opportunity to reflect on that history – a history marked by foresight, community outreach and working with others to protect the environment.
A new brochure that was distributed in Sanders County, Mont. and will be distributed to attendees of the anniversary celebration honors the history of Avista on the Clark Fork with the story of Noxon Rapids, a story of community growth, environmental stewardship, and relationship building over the past half century. Check out the brochure.
The Noxon Rapids 50th/Clark Fork Settlement Agreement 10th Anniversary celebration will be held in Noxon, Mont., Oct. 1. The public celebration, which will include a free community picnic, live band and tours of Noxon Rapids, begins at 3 p.m. at Pilgrim Creek Park, and is open to the public, Avista employees, contract employees and retirees.
Sep 21 , 2009
Avista employees sort and box thousands and thousands of apples during the United Way Day of Action on Sept. 18 at the Second Harvest Food Bank. The event helped kick off this year’s Spokane County United Way campaign.
On Friday I attended this year’s kickoff event for the Spokane Country United Way campaign held at the Second Harvest Food Bank
near downtown Spokane. Avista and its employees have long been supporters of United Way
. For the second year in a row the Spokane County campaign chair is Avista CEO Scott Morris, which certainly has a lot of Avista employees even more tuned into the campaign this year.
During the event a few facts about the Spokane area really struck me. First – one in three children in our area don’t graduate from high school. One in five Spokane children lives in families experiencing poverty. Finally, child abuse rates around here are almost double the Washington state average. The United Way is focusing its efforts on helping improve the lives of the people in our area through its partner agencies and hopefully improving upon these statistics.
This year’s goal is to raise $4.8 million for the Spokane County United Way. Avista is a pacesetter company, and combined with employee donations, has already contributed $361,000 of the $610,000 raised in early campaigns.
The kickoff event was followed by the United Way Day of Action. Roughly 150 volunteers from nine companies participated, including 38 Avista employees who worked at Second Harvest and a mobile food bank at the Salvation Army. I shot some video at the events and will post one soon.
The point of mentioning Avista and its employee’s volunteer work isn’t to give us a pat on the back, but to recognize that there are great needs in the communities we live in and that each of us can do something to help improve the lives of those around us. Our employees donate around 50,000 hours of community service work each year – just because it’s the right thing to do. Volunteering your time or donating to a cause you believe in is one way that you can make a difference as well.