Feb 01 , 2010
Joe shows a customer Avista's online energy audit.
Joe walks a customer through
Avista's online energy audit.
Post by Jessie Wuerst
Follow Jessie on Twitter, @AvistaCares

My feet have stopped hurting. I got a little rest, and I now have a little perspective on Avista’s 2010 Energy Fair held last Saturday. It was great! Some 325 people of all ages and interests came through the Lair Student Center at Spokane Community College from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. They talked with Avista staff and our community partners about topics that ranged from installing energy saving door sweeps to filing for earned income tax credits. We were very pleased to partner with Community Colleges of Spokane for this first annual event. Also attending and providing valuable information were staff members from SNAP, Work Source Spokane and the CASH Coalition.

Camille shows how to help insulate drafty windows
Camille shows how to help insulate
drafty windows.
One of the biggest hits of the day was the interactive singing and dancing program from Wattson, our energy watchdog and his friend Edison. It was so fun to see the kids – their parents and a few Avista staffers – singing and dancing right along with the big dog and his pal, learning energy efficiency tips at the same time.

It warmed my heart to see a family relaxing around a table in the Lair Café, talking about the Wattson activity sheet the kids colored. Or catching bits of conversation from the older couple who discussed which lamp in their home would get the free CFL bulb they received at the fair.

A little excitement was in the air at least once an hour, when door prize winners were announced. And a lot of excitement followed the announcement of the two grand prize winners. Avista House Warming certificates, cozy blankets, and other energy-saving goodies were the coveted prizes.

All in all, I thought the fair was a wonderful success. Attendees told us the information was very helpful and they appreciated the free samples they received after each demonstration. We learned some things that will make it even better next year and we’re looking forward to it.
 
Published: 2/1/2010  9:40 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 30 , 2010
Come visit us at the Energy Fair
Come visit my co-workers and friends at Avista's 2010 Energy Fair. 

Post by Dan Kolbet

Informational display.
I've only been at Avista's 2010 Energy Fair for about an hour, but I've been impressed with the displays and information booths - and the number of Avista customers who have joined us today for energy efficiency demonstrations and to talk about their accounts. I hope to see you here.

The fair is going on from right now until 3 p.m. We have customer service reps available for face to face meetings. I'm actually set up in the Customer Service area right now typing this post. It's a busy place, but if you decide to come over, don't expect a wait, so it’s certainly worth it.

I must mention prizes. This is simple, when you get here, visit my friends at the information booths (there is one at each end). They will give you all the details you need to get entered into hourly prize drawings and two really cool grand prizes at the end of the day. (Word is the grand prizes include a $250 energy gift certificate - can't beat that.)

If you're just kicking around the house today, please come over to Spokane Community College (SCC) Lair Student Center (Building 6), 1810 North Greene Street. Anyhow, Wattson, Avista's Energy Watchdog is about to take the stage in the Kid's area and I don't want to miss it, so, I’m signing off.
 
 
Published: 1/30/2010  11:27 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 27 , 2010
Post by Jessie Wuerst
Follow Jessie on Twitter: @AvistaCares

more details
It’s winter in the Inland Northwest and that usually means cold, snow and high utility bills. This year there’s little snow, but it is cold, and utility bills are inching upward. What better time to reach out for information about bill assistance and energy efficiency? All this and more will be available at Avista’s 2010 Energy Fair, scheduled for Saturday, Jan. 30, from 10 a.m. until 3 p.m. at Spokane Community College (SCC) Lair Student Center (Building 6), 1810 North Greene Street. (See map here.)

Free admission to the event includes access to all demonstrations, free samples, complimentary food and beverages, and door prizes.

Avista is partnering with Community Colleges of Spokane for this first annual event. All kinds of information and demonstrations will be available throughout the day, including information about payment options, energy assistance and energy efficiency.

Fair attendees can speak with Avista staff and learn first-hand about low-cost and no-cost easy energy efficiency tips and tricks. They’ll see how to install such things as rope caulking, window plastic and door sweeps to help keep the warm air in their homes and the cold air out. And following each demonstration, free samples of each item will be distributed. We’ll also have information about online tools that can give you more information about your energy use and what you pay for it. These can be really helpful.

Avista customer service representatives will also be available to answer billing questions, provide information about payment options and refer customers to energy assistance programs, as needed. SNAP representatives will be on hand to answer questions about energy assistance, weatherization and other topics. And Community Colleges of Spokane will have information tables, as well.

For the kids, and the kids at heart, Wattson, Avista’s Energy Watchdog, will guide attendees through fun, energy-focused crafts and presentations of his musical message of energy efficiency and safety.
Published: 1/27/2010  9:04 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 26 , 2010
Outage restoration
An Avista crew fixing
an outage in winter
2008.
Post by Dan Kolbet

I saw this story getting passed around twitter today. Turns out a power outage for this particular family in the Mid-West, gave them a chance to slow down and reconnect (so to speak).

Check out the Chicago Tribune article, “The power of a power outage.”

Have you ever have an experience like this?
 
 
Published: 1/26/2010  11:11 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 25 , 2010
Comments
Post by Dan Kolbet

We don’t get a great deal of comments on this blog. I get it. Unlike most other blogs out there, your user name shows your actual first name and last initial. For example, mine says ‘Dan K’ when I reply to comments here. Most people prefer an alias and a bit more anonymity in their online participation, which is why e-mail is the most popular way customers reach the blog and that’s cool.

The Avista Utilities website, as you might expect, was originally designed for customers to log-in to their My Accounts to access billing and account info – not blog comments. But through the wonder of technology, our tech folks added the blog into the mix, allowing comments on posts from customers like you from one account sign-in. Everyone can read the blog, but only customers can comment.

I’ve gotten a few e-mails (note “e-mails”) asking me why we don’t have more comments on the blog. It seems as though some believe comments are the only conversation we’re having with customers. While comments are one outlet – and one that is visible for all to see – it’s not the only one.

E-mail is definitely a popular choice and it is really a key medium that I’ve seen an increase in. Anyone who sends an e-mail to conversation@avistautilities.com will receive a personal reply and an answer to whatever question is on your mind. We’ve even featured some of them on the blog. I’ve had many lengthy e-mail and in-person conversations with customers about rates, our generation mix, billing, power outages, executive compensation, energy efficiency, smart grid, our history, our future, shareholders and profits, environmental stewardship – you name it. 

We’re also creating videos and sharing information through web banner ads and new content, e-mails, newspaper fliers and community events in the hopes that customers will get in touch with our Customer Service Representatives to get billing assistance, if they need it, before the trouble gets too big to handle. Billing assistance isn’t the only thing you can contact us about, but it’s a big one this time of year.

So, would l like it if I had dozens of comments on every post? Yes I would, but that’s not going to happen. In the meantime, I rest easy knowing that customers can e-mail the blog or Customer Service, follow @Dan_at_Avista or @AvistaCares on Twitter, interact with us on various discussion forums, call us at 1-800-227-9187, or just have an informal conversation with an employee you know.

Energy, our services and your needs are important to us and we want to talk about all of them with you.

Are you surprised that your utility wants hear from you?  Tell us why.

Published: 1/25/2010  3:23 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 25 , 2010
Avista's Post Street Substation by John D. Moore
Image by John D. Moore. Visit his site.

Post by Dan Kolbet
 
If you had a chance to visit downtown Spokane over the last few weeks, you might have caught a glimpse of Avista’s Post Street Substation, decked out in red, white and blue in honor of the 2010 U.S. Figure Skating Championships. Most people refer to his building as the Washington Water Power building near the falls, which is a fine identifier really, given the big green words on the roof. Interestingly enough, the building is a working Avista substation that helps deliver clean, renewable hydroelectric juice to downtown Spokane.

Local photographer John D. Moore, who seems to have a knack for capturing the beauty of Spokane when the lights go out, grabbed a few shots of the WWP building that turned out great. I caught his photos on his blog, http://spokanescenes.blogspot.com/.

Moore graciously allowed us to share his photos here and then told me though e-mail, “In my view, we live in a beautiful place and if I can make a few people envious...then I'll feel good about that.”

He’s right.

You can check out much more of John Moore’s work here: http://www.spokanenightscenes.com/
 
Published: 1/25/2010  9:37 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 20 , 2010
9-mile video

Post by Anna Scarlett; video by Dan Kolbet
 
Yesterday marked the end of an 80-year era for Avista, with the release of wooden flashboards at our Nine Mile Falls Dam on the Spokane River. Watch the two-minute video to see what it looked like to release the flashboards.

In 1928 Avista began installing the five-foot high, hand-built flashboards at the top of the face of the dam, extending the normal dam height to 63 feet (without the flash boards its 58 feet). Later, the flashboard height was doubled to a total height of 10 feet. Flashboards are installed annually in four sections: two upper and two lower. Yesterday we released the two upper sections, and we’ll release the remaining sections later this spring, for the final time.

The flashboards, constructed with sheets of plywood and solid wood beams, allow operators to hold back more water in the forebay for power generation when river levels are lower. They are installed each summer and removed in late winter or early spring, as river levels begin to rise again.

Beginning this summer, Avista will replace the wooden flashboards at Nine Mile with an automated spillway that will give operators the ability to raise and lower the height of the spillway as needed. This new spillway, required under our FERC Spokane River Project license, will allow us to maintain the reservoir pool at a more constant level throughout the entire year, partly because it eliminates the need to lower the reservoir each summer to install flashboards.

Just a reminder – if you’re out on the river for any reason, be careful. High river levels, run-off from recent storms and the flashboard release have resulted in extra debris in the water, especially downstream from Nine Mile Dam. The video shows a few rather large trees and other items floating down the river.
Published: 1/20/2010  4:16 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 18 , 2010
Click for more detailed report
This Bill Analyzer report shows how
weather impacted my December
energy usage.
Post by Dan Kolbet

I went outside during lunch today, because unlike the soggy weekend we had in Spokane, the sun was shining and the temperature was over 50 degrees. Even over the last few days, while the rain was pretty constant, the temperatures were up. While it’s unlikely you’ll need shorts and sun block anytime soon, it’s definitely been a mild winter.

By comparison to last year at this time, we were suffering from bitter record cold temps and mounds of immovable snow. Snow in itself doesn’t really have a direct impact on your utility bill, but it’s my personal assertion that when the lawn is full of snow, I’m more likely to bump up the thermostat a few degrees to shake the dust off the psychological cold.

It’s really the temperature outside, combined with your usage that impacts your monthly bill. But you don’t have to take my word for it – you can track how weather impacts your bill through your free My Account, which is available to all customers.

When I went back today and looked at my house’s account I saw that through December, the average temperature in my area was actually 10 degrees colder than the previous month – actually increasing my bill $31-51. It just goes to show how quickly we forget about the bad weather – when good (i.e. warm) weather happens. Next month I’ll be able to look back on January and see how the warm weather saved me money.

Click here to see a report the Avista Bill Analyzer created for my house.

If you’d like to track your energy usage online for free, sign up for a My Account and you too can utilize features like the Bill Analyzer, online energy audits, payment options and more.
Published: 1/18/2010  4:12 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 14 , 2010
Click here for information about bill assistance.
Post by Dan Kolbet

Over the last few weeks, as I received e-mails from customers and observed my co-workers planning for our bill assistance informational campaign, a few things become clearer for me.

First, more people than ever need a little extra help with their bills. Now, this might seem a bit obvious given recent economic conditions, but it seems the trend is help for people who have never needed to ask before. Life sometimes throws you a curveball – it just happens. Second, asking about what options are available for you so you can pay your bills and live comfortably is tough for some people to do and that’s understandable.

Given these trends, it’s nice to know that we’re offering help right now - hopefully before you really need it. Don’t get me wrong, we certainly need you to pay for the energy you use, but we also know we’re not the only bill you get each month and we want to help when we can.

So, what’s available?

Payment arrangements:
You may qualify for special payment arrangements that fit your needs.

Comfort Level Billing:
Winter bills are typically high, summer bills are lower. Comfort Level Billing lets you make the same payment every month to smooth out the volatility. I have this service and love the consistency, plus there’s no interest charge on your balance.

Preferred Due Date:
Maybe you get paid every other Friday, but your spouse gets paid only once a month, when is the best time for you to pay your bill? Tell us and we’ll move your payment date. Of course this will depend on your account status and situation, but call to talk with us.

Energy Assistance Grants, Such as Project Share:
Limited or low-income customers may qualify for assistance through local community agencies.

Senior Assistance:
Many options are available for those age 60 and over.

It’s all about what fits for you. Please call our customer service folks or login to your My Account and look at your options before you get into a pinch.
 
Published: 1/14/2010  12:08 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 11 , 2010
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
Avista customers in Washington will see an overall 7 percent decrease in electric rates if the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approves a recent request to lower rates. The new rate would take effect February 12 if approved by the WUTC.

This decrease centers on the removal of a surcharge. The Energy Recovery Mechanism - or ERM - was in place to recover extraordinary changes in certain power supply costs that are above or below the amount included in customer base rates.

“The surcharge was mainly caused by below-normal hydroelectric conditions and higher natural gas prices for thermal generation in previous years,” said Kelly Norwood, Avista vice president of state and federal regulation, in a media release today. “The combination of a decline in natural gas prices, near-normal hydroelectric conditions in the past year, and the collection of prior-period costs now allows us to eliminate the surcharge.”

Requests to lower rates, such as this one, take considerably less time to approve than increase requests. (We filed it last Friday, Jan. 8). The WUTC has up to 11 months to approve rate increase requests. The WUTC issued a decision on Avista’s most recent Washington general rate case on Dec. 22, 2009. That rate case, which was originally filed in January 2009, resulted in a 2.8 percent increase in electric rates and 0.3 percent increase in gas rates.

Idaho electric customers might be asking, “What about us?” Idaho doesn’t use the ERM mechanism like Washington, but rather uses a similar mechanism called a Power Cost Adjustment (PCA). The Idaho PCA was adjusted with a general rate case ruling effective August 1, 2009. Read, “Multiple Idaho rate adjustments result in slight increase.” The PCA portion of that ruling was a 4.2 percent decrease. 

Learn more about Avista’s rates.
Published: 1/11/2010  1:12 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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