Apr 27 , 2010
video
 
 
Post & video by Dan Kolbet
 
On Earth Day Avista unveiled three electric vehicle charging stations around Spokane. These stations are part of Avista’s commitment to providing customers what they need in regards to electricity use - even in electric cars.

The stations are located at Spokane’s City Hall, Steam Plant Square and Avista’s headquarters on Mission Avenue. Avista will monitor their usage and upgrade them accordingly as technology and needs progress.

Please watch this two minute video for an quick overview of the unveiling events on Earth Day and  listen to comments provided by Spokane Mayor Mary Verner and Dave Holmes, Avista’s Manager of Applied Research.

For more details on the charging stations, check out, “Plugging in for Earth Day – electric car charging stations.”
 

 
Published: 4/27/2010  9:54 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 26 , 2010
Energy Audit in progress
Post by Dan Kolbet

I had the opportunity today to see my first in-person home energy audit on Spokane’s South Hill. I attended the official launch of Avista’s two-year Home Energy Audit pilot program. In partnership with Spokane, Spokane Valley and Spokane County, Avista is operating an audit program that provides comprehensive home energy audits in Spokane County.

The three government partners have pledged nearly $700,000 in federal stimulus funding, which will be matched by Avista as part of its ongoing energy efficiency initiative. Together, these funds will help offset a large portion of the cost for a professional home energy audit for qualifying residents.  Get all the details here.
 
The first thing that really struck me about the audit was how comprehensive it really was and how in just a few hours, the homeowner was armed with a wealth of actionable information on how he could most effectively make energy efficiency repairs and modifications. He’ll also get a detailed report shortly after the audit is conducted.

Blower-door test

A blower-door test helps show where air is
leaking into a home - and where your energy
is being wasted. 
The most visible demonstration from the audit was the blower door test. A massive fan is attached to the home’s front door which simulates a 20 mph wind gust hitting the outside of every wall of the home. Then you can feel (and even see, in some cases), where air is leaking into the home. During this audit, a number of unsuspecting places in the home’s basement and second story showed obvious leaks.

Crawl spaces, a pet door and pipes were key items, but to my surprise, the home’s older windows actually held up quite well. What a waste it would have been had the homeowner spent thousands of dollars on new windows, when the windows weren’t really contributing to much of the home’s energy losses.

Every home is different and everyone’s use of energy is unique to their lifestyle, which is why a detailed audit is so important when making decisions about energy efficiency. Our audit program should help get the ball rolling for many interested homeowners in Spokane County.
 
I also took some video of the kickoff event, and will get that posted to the blog soon.

 
Published: 4/26/2010  3:55 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 22 , 2010
Electric Vehicle Charging Station plug ins

Spokane Mayor Mary Verner and Avista’s Manager of Applied Research, Dave Holmes, were joined by members of the Panhandle Electric Car Club today to plug into one of three new electric vehicle charging stations in Spokane. The stations, installed by Avista, are at City Hall, the Steam Plant Grill and Avista’s headquarters.

Electric and gas-electric hybrid vehicles can be plugged in while owners are shopping or doing business, helping to stretch their batteries during the day. And, while it would take several hours to completely charge a battery using one of these 120-volt outlets (a standard outlet like one you’d have in your home), the boost should help. Later, these stations will be upgraded to the faster, 240-volt chargers.

Electric Car Charging station
So who pays for the power at the charging stations? At these stations, for now, the property owner pays the bill – not the individual charging up. It’s hard to say how that will work in the future – that’s one thing we’ll be trying to work out. That said, it costs very little to fully charge a vehicle at one of the stations, from less than a dollar for one of Avista’s Plug-in Hybrid Electric Toyota Priuses, to around $3.50 for an all-electric Tesla.

As the cost of fuel and pressure to lessen dependence on oil increases, consumers are adopting more alternative modes of transportation. Electric/gas hybrid vehicles are now available to the public, and later this year the first mass produced electric vehicles will be available. Mass production along and federal tax credits are making electric transportation more affordable, too, with some new models expected to cost around $30,000.

For our purposes, it’s exciting to launch another new project to explore renewable energy and the changing energy landscape. We need to understand how electric transportation will affect energy demand, and we want to give our customers tools and information to incorporate renewable energy into their everyday lives.

Several electric car owners showed up for the event – and many of these electric car enthusiasts extend their interest in alternative energy to their homes as well. A number have solar or other renewable systems at home, and I talked with one owner who generates all of his own power.

We’re starting small, with three stations. But electric vehicle charging stations may one day be as common as corner gas stations are today. We’re hopeful that installing these stations will help us be prepared for that.
Published: 4/22/2010  4:14 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 21 , 2010
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
We're always pleased when we can get out the word about safety on the bodies of water that our dams are connected with. Yesterday, KXLY reporter Jeff Humphrey did a good story on Avista raising the levels on Lake Coeur d'Alene in conjunction with low spring runoff.
 
If you're a recreational boater, that might mean you'll be able to use the lake earlier than in previous years. But with these early changes comes the dangers hidden under the water - such as rocks or wooden pilings, so watch out.
Published: 4/21/2010  9:05 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 21 , 2010
Spokane River near Post Falls

Weather conditions dictate unusual water levels

Post by Hugh Imhof
 
Avista is urging boaters to be extra careful when navigating the Spokane River above Post Falls this spring. Because of low snow pack in the watershed, the river may be at unusual levels until after the runoff is completed. 

Current water levels are between normal winter and summer seasonal elevations and the water is rising slowly. Boaters should be alert for shallow areas that can contain hidden obstacles such as rocks or wooden pilings.

The river and Coeur d’Alene Lake are expected to return to the normal summer level of 2,128 feet above sea level after the runoff is complete. Weather conditions will determine how quickly a return to summer elevation can occur.
 
Published: 4/21/2010  8:38 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 19 , 2010
Call before you dig
Post by Laurine Jue

At least once each spring someone reminds me that “April showers bring May flowers” but it’s not the only guarantee that comes with spring – warmer weather also always means outdoor projects are just around the corner.

As you head back outside to put up fences or decks, excavate new gardens, and plant trees (among other things!) don’t forget to call 811 before you dig. It’s easy to forget that pipes, cables and power lines can be buried dangerously close to the surface, and one dig with a shovel or backhoe could strike a natural gas or electric line. It’s not only the smart and safe thing to do to call 811 at least two working days before you plan to dig, it’s the law.

You might already be seeing and hearing 811 reminders on TV, radio, and in newspapers, but it’s worth saying again. Calling 811 will prevent accidental dig-ins, as well as costly fines that customers have to pay if they damage a line. A call to 811 will send a professional to find and mark the location of any buried power lines or natural gas pipes in your yard or dig site. 

In the last three years, the number of accidental dig-ins to electrical and natural gas pipes has declined by 39 percent and that’s a trend Avista hopes will continue! For more information on 811 and for other safe digging tips, visit http://www.avistautilities.com/safety.

Help us celebrate “National Safe Digging Month” this April by reminding your family, friends and neighbors to call 811 before they dig. Stay safe!
Published: 4/19/2010  3:15 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 16 , 2010
Fridge
Post by Debbie Simock

If you’re thinking about upgrading the appliances in your home, now is a perfect time to start shopping.

Washington and Idaho are offering new state-wide rebate programs for certain Energy Star appliances. You can also receive an Avista appliance rebate, which we’ve been offering for years, for qualifying Energy Star appliances. Plus if you buy an Energy Star refrigerator, we’ll pay you an additional $30 and pick up your old unit for recycling.

What’s the deal with all the rebates for appliances? It’s simple – old appliances use more electricity and water than new energy efficient models, and that can have an impact on your wallet and on the environment. Washington State expects its program will save residents about $1 million in energy costs, save 355 million gallons of water and prevent over 8,000 tons of CO2.

Energy Star
It may seem odd that Avista pays customers to use less energy, but it really makes sense for customers and for the company. Helping customers use less energy helps reduce the amount of new electricity we have to generate or purchase and that helps manage everyone’s costs. As we say, energy efficiency is the least-cost new resource.

Information on Avista’s energy efficiency rebate programs and forms are available at www.everylittlebit.com, but there’s one catch for the state rebates – they last only as long as the money lasts. Check out the Washington Cash for Appliances program (www.cashforapplianceswa.com) for a running total of the remaining available funds and for program details. Find more information on Idaho’s Appliance Rebate Program here.

Happy shopping….and saving.
 
Published: 4/16/2010  1:44 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 14 , 2010
Post by Dan Kolbet

Over the next few days, Avista will be sending out e-mails to Washington and Idaho customers (who have provided us their e-mail address through their utility account). The message, from Avista Utilities President Dennis Vermillion is pasted below in its entirety. The e-mail is a notification of our recent rates filings and directions where customers can learn more about the details of those requests.

Last year, we sent many customer conversation e-mails. They happened to coincide with three requests to lower natural gas rates throughout the year in Washington and Idaho. We received many thank you replies, but also many notes that asked us to continue sending informational e-mails when requests go the other direction. This e-mail recognizes that.

I, along with another co-worker, personally responded to anyone who replied to those e-mails – we’ll continue that practice as long as you continue to e-mail us back and find value in it.

If you don’t receive an e-mail from Avista by the end of the week, login to your MyAccount and double check that you’ve provided us your current e-mail address. You may also want to add conversation@avistautilities.com to your address book, so it doesn’t fall into your spam folder.

Below is the entire e-mail from Dennis Vermillion.

Taking a closer look at rates
You may have heard that Avista recently filed a request with the state utility commission to raise electric and natural gas rates. This request was necessary to recover the higher costs we are paying for energy as well as the increasing costs of getting that energy to your home or business.

Click to watch video
State regulators will now conduct a public review process (which could take up to seven or 11 months). As a regulated utility, it is the state utility commission who will set our prices only after this thorough review is complete. You can learn more about how the process works by clicking here for a short video.

Our commitment to you is to listen and share information on energy issues that affect us all.  We encourage you to visit our website at www.avistautilities.com where you will find more information about the current rate requests and the major investments we’re making to keep serving you well.

Since we launched our conversation web pages and blog last summer, thousands of you have visited, read posts, left comments through your MyAccount sign-in or e-mailed us at conversation@avistautilities.com. Thank you! We hope you’ll continue learning, sharing and joining this important conversation.   

Sincerely,
Dennis Vermillion
President, Avista Utilities
 
Published: 4/14/2010  8:46 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 05 , 2010
Post by Dan Kolbet
Follow Dan on Twitter: Dan_at_Avista

Rates microsite
Over the past few weeks we’ve been posting a lot of materials on the blog and the rest of our website about our recently filed rate cases in Washington and Idaho. The more informed you are about our requests, the better you can form an opinion as an educated customer. No one around here is happy that we have to file rate cases for potential rate increases, but the fact is we must do so to operate the system our customers rely on.

Unless you’re me (or most Avista employees), you probably don’t go to bed every night thinking about energy – nor should you. That’s what we’re here for. As long as the lights turn on every day, the furnace fires up with natural gas every morning and your power is restored if it ever goes out, you probably don’t put much thought into your energy.

Of course we want you to take energy efficiency to heart, so don’t get me wrong, but for the most part, out of sight, out of mind, right? You think about us when the bill comes, or when it’s really cold outside and you know your home is cranking out the juice. Fair enough. Like I mentioned – that’s what we’re here for.

But, if in the next seven months (Idaho) or 11 months (Washington), as our electric and natural gas rate cases are being reviewed by state regulators, you want to learn more – check out this website. Here you can find out why we’ve requested rate increases and how they would impact you.

If you’ve got direct questions, we can handle those too, just drop us a note in the comments or e-mail us at conversation@avistautilities.com.
Published: 4/5/2010  11:50 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 03 , 2010
 
Years ago, I spent a few summers boating the St. Joe River and lower part of Coeur d’Alene Lake, which includes Chatcolet, Round, Benewah and Hidden Lakes. In fact, I learned to water-ski on the St. Joe, known for its glass-smooth surface and calm waters. In those days I didn’t give much thought to the river banks – beyond wondering where exactly the river ends and the lake begins.
 
Last week, I had the enlightening experience of seeing first-hand some of the long-term impacts of hydroelectricity, boating and other uses of the lake and river, when I joined a group touring a two-year shoreline erosion inventory and assessment on the St. Joe River where it flows through this lower portion of Coeur d’Alene Lake.
 
Avista and the Coeur d’Alene tribe are working together on this erosion study, one of the first of three major phases in our erosion measures within the Tribal waters of Coeur d’Alene Lake, and a condition of Avista’s 50-year FERC license to operate its Spokane River hydroelectric project. The study is also part of the comprehensive settlement reached between Avista and the Coeur d’Alene tribe prior to last year’s issuance of the license. In addition to compensating the Tribe for past and future storage of water, the settlement requires Avista to pay a total of $100 million into the Coeur d’Alene resource protection trust fund for costs associated with environmental measures in and around Coeur d’Alene Lake. This funding mechanism allows the Tribe and Avista to collaborate on complying with license requirements, which include this shoreline erosion control project, as well as activities in wetland restoration, water quality monitoring, aquatic weed management and protection of cultural resources on the reservation.
 
Dave Lamb of the Coeur d’Alene Tribe and Bruce Stoker of Earth Systems, consultants to Avista on the erosion inventory and assessment, showed a group including Avista’s Meghan Lunney, Becky Kramer from the Spokesman-Review and myself just how much the banks of this part of the St. Joe have eroded over the years, primarily due to the wave action caused by boats in high water. Bruce Gardipie, a member of the Kootenai, Salish and Confederated Tribes of Montana, who has lived on the Coeur d’Alene Reservation for 40 years, was our boat operator, and provided additional expertise.
 
I never even knew where the actual channel of the St. Joe ran, let alone that recreationists like myself could potentially contribute to its erosion. It was an eye-opener, and a good learning experience.
 
Now that the Spokane River FERC license has been issued, it’s great to see the work beginning, and it’s even better to see years of planning resulting in people working together to protect and improve the environment. This is just one of the many protection, mitigation and enhancement measures that we will implement in collaboration with the Tribe as part of our license and our ongoing commitment to protect natural resources associated with our hydroelectric projects.
 
More info
You can read the Spokesman-Review’s article, “Tribe, Avista working to protect St. Joe River levees” here.
Published: 4/3/2010  2:16 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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