Jun 01 , 2010
An Avista My Account page
Post by Dan Kolbet

The first working day of the month is typically a very busy time for our Contact Center because call volumes are high. Pile on top of that the time of year when college students are moving in and out and setting up or closing accounts and, oh yeah, a holiday weekend – and you’re going to have some busy phone lines.

I e-mailed (note “e-mailed,” not called) one of our customer service managers this morning and asked about call volume. He said they’d answered more than 1,000 calls already this morning – and projected four times that amount by the end of the day.

I’m a customer too and I’ve never had to wait more than a few moments to talk to one of our customer service reps (CSRs). I can’t tell you what your wait time (if any) might be if you call, but I know one sure-fire way to avoid any wait – go online. Nearly everything you can do on the phone with a CSR can be done at this website www.avistautilities.com. Just sign-in your My Account and you are set.

Want to sign up for comfort level billing? Check. How about starting or stopping service? Check. Need to make a payment? Check. Want to chat about your day . . . OK, so you can’t do that online (except for at the Blog, but just about everything else is available for you.)

So, give it a shot if you need to work with us today (or any day for that matter).
 
Let me know how it goes. Conversation@avistautilities.com
 
Published: 6/1/2010  10:56 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 28 , 2010

Avista installs a smart grid communications device on a streetlight
An Avista lineman installs a smart grid communications device on a streetlight.

Post & video by Dan Kolbet

Watch a 30-second video of the device install
Watch a 30-second video of the device install.
It’s great to see smart grid progress. And that’s just what was happening high above Avista’s Mission Campus (Spokane) parking lot this morning. We installed a wireless communication device - or radio – on a streetlight as part of our testing of the smart grid equipment we’ll be installing in our Spokane Smart Circuits project. This device communicates to another device on our main building’s roof, which communicates to another one – and so on.

This wasn’t the first device we’ve ever installed, but it’s the first one I’ve seen. Word is that we’ll be installing a few more of these at our training facility in North Spokane soon to train our employees and test the system.

We’ll certainly have much more on the Spokane’s Smart Circuits project as it progresses, but I couldn’t help but share this quick update.

Watch a 30 second video of the install.

Published: 5/28/2010  12:34 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 28 , 2010

It’s funny how you meet people sometimes. And it’s amazing how much good can come out of a casual conversation. On a flight back to Spokane in January, I shared the plane with an energetic group of Keller Williams real estate professionals returning from their annual meeting. One enthusiastic Realtor started up a conversation with my co-worker and me about Keller Williams’ annual community outreach event called RED – Renew, Energize and Donate. Since we do a lot of work with non-profit agencies, we knew who to put the Realtors in touch with to find the people they could help in their day of service on May 13. Our great energy efficiency experts trained the Realtors how to do some simple home weatherization, and we provided some CFL bulbs and other materials that they installed.

We’re pleased that we could be of assistance to Keller Williams as they helped six families who are most in need in our community.
Published: 5/28/2010  11:38 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 26 , 2010
Ginny Welch gets a good look at her new Toyota Prius.
Ginny Welch gets a good look at her new Toyota Prius.
 
The trunk of the Prius was stuffed with CFL goodness.
The trunk of the Prius was stuffed with CFL goodness.
Efficiency matters and every little bit adds up. Even when you drive a fuel efficient car. And now, one lucky woman owns a brand new Toyota Prius - and a case of CFL bulbs - to help her be more energy efficient both at home and on the road.

Beginning April 1, KREM 2’s Project Green and Toyota joined Avista in promoting the benefits and awareness of energy efficiency, energy assistance and rebates offered to homeowners. The grand prize in the seven-week promotion was the Prius, courtesy of Northwest Toyota Dealers. The May 25 grand prize event was hosted by KREM 2 weathercaster Tom Sherry and Avista Low Income Program Manager Christine McCabe.

Finalists were drawn each week from the over 65,000 entries to the contest. They ranged in age from 19 to 57 and came from communities throughout eastern Washington and northern Idaho. They are Flavia Ford, Post Falls; Rhianna Thomas, Springdale, Wash.; Robert Holven, Chester, Wash; Eleanor Anderson, Post Falls; Alicia Knowles, Spokane; and Christie Higley, Coeur d’Alene.

And the winner is Ginny Welch from Airway Heights, Wash.
Published: 5/26/2010  7:59 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 20 , 2010
Sign up for Comfort Level Billing
 

My friend Roy likes a good deal. It doesn’t matter if the deal is saving money on a purchase or making his life easier, he’s all over it. And one of his favorite “making life easier” deals was signing up for Avista’s Comfort Level Billing program, e-bill and automatic payment service. Now he knows how much his bill is going to be every month, he receives it electronically, and his payment is automatically withdrawn from his checking account – and it’s all free.

Avista’s Comfort Level Billing program evens out the highs and lows of your bill by averaging your previous 12 month’s usage and applying current rates. That way you, and Roy, know how much your bill is going to be each month.

If you’re also into deals, now would be a good time to check out our Comfort Level Billing program. If you sign up before June 19 and stay on the program a year, you’re eligible to win one of fifty $100 Avista gift certificates. Not to worry if you’re already on Comfort Level Billing - you’re automatically entered to win.

To help you save time, you can click here for more information on Comfort Level Billing and on our other customer services.
 
Published: 5/20/2010  1:03 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 17 , 2010
Mission Avenue Electric Car Charging Station
Electric car charging station on Mission Avenue.
Post by Dan Kolbet

Late last month Avista’s first electric car charging stations debuted around Spokane. I’ve been keeping an eye out for anyone plugged into the station located in front of our Mission Campus building. Unfortunately, I have no window to peer out during the day to spot eco-conscious, electric car-charging citizens, plugged into our station. Alas, I’ve seen only one vehicle plugged in and of course, didn’t have my camera to capture the moment.  I’ve also come up empty handed after a few drive bys of our stations at Spokane’s City Hall and at the Stream Plant.

But I know there are electric vehicle owners out there. I met a handful during our debut of the stations. Even Spokesman-Review reporter Pia Hallenberg spotted an electric car owner and featured him on her South Perry Blog last week. I remember that car in attendance at our station debut events too. There’s no charging station on South Perry, but all three stations are certainly within the electric vehicle’s range. (The blog’s worth a look too.)

Have you used one of the charging stations or seen someone else using them to charge up a vehicle? Send us an e-mail or drop us a comment and let us know. Better yet, next time – snap a picture of you, the car and the station – love to see it.
 
Published: 5/17/2010  2:22 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 17 , 2010
Kettle Falls Generating Station
Kettle Falls Generating Station.
 
Burning hot fuel
Burning hog fuel in boiler. Click to see a slide show of the plant's operations.
Post by Dan Kolbet

Sunday the Spokesman-Review ran a good article about biomass plants and the difficulty finding low-cost fuel. It featured Avista’s Kettle Falls Generating Station. Check out, "Biomass challenge," by Becky Kramer.

Two years ago I was involved in the 25th anniversary of the Kettle Falls plant and was able to learn a great deal about the wood-waste burning facility. I’ve got an affinity for it because it’s pretty unique in our power supply mix. While we’re obviously well-versed in hydropower and natural gas-fired generation and such – we’ve only got one biomass plant and it’s cool.

Kettle Falls video from 1983
This video was made during the dedication
of Kettle Falls in 1983. Watch now.
Wood waste – called “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 maximum output of the wood-waste only operation is 53 megawatts of electricity.

Watch a slide show from flickr of the plant’s operations.

Avista – or Washington Water Power at the time – created a short video in October 1983 during the dedication of the first-of-its-kind, renewable energy plant. The video is called “From Wood Waste to Power.” Due to its age, some statements and facts in the video are dated, but the general idea is still relevant.

It’s interesting to think that at the time, the plant was so groundbreaking and it’s still a gem today.
 
Published: 5/17/2010  10:40 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 14 , 2010

2010 Sustainability Report

Post by Jessie Wuerst
Follow @AvistaCares on twitter

Have you heard the word? Seems like it’s being used everywhere. Sustainability. What does it mean and why does Avista care?

As a utility company founded on renewable hydro generation, Avista has a long history of using and taking care of the natural resources in our environment. That’s part of doing business in a sustainable way – a way that doesn’t compromise the future for generations to come. That’s important to us and we think it’s important to you, as well.

As important as taking care of our environment is, there’s much more to doing business in a sustainable manner. Sustainability has three components: environment, economy and society. Our newly released 2010 Sustainability Report provides information about our company’s business practices in all three areas. And, in keeping with the spirit of sustainability, the report is web-based to conserve resources and contain costs.

Research groups, major investors and others often use sustainability reports like ours to understand how a company’s operations reflect its values and its commitment to the short and long-term use of resources. Our report is also a valuable tool for customers, community leaders and others who want to better understand Avista’s environmental, economic and social responsibility actions and impacts.

The information is a snapshot in time, largely based on results as of Dec. 31, 2009, and tells about our company’s activities from power generation to resource planning, from philanthropy to governance, from human resources to energy efficiency, and much more.

We encourage you to check out our 2010 Sustainability Report, watch the video message from CEO Scott Morris and give us your feedback. Your input will help us shape the content of future reports.
 
Published: 5/14/2010  11:06 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 12 , 2010

The above video and the following story were originally run in Avista’s employee publication, e.view. But a few folks online commented that they’d like to see this video project I’d been working on. I’m really proud of this video and the employees who set up and then executed this mock accident. It truly shows our company’s commitment to safety and our employees’ dedication. Watch video now.

Realistic mock accident scenario brings out Avista’s best
Journeyman Lineman Mike Toutloff says there’s no handbook on how to rescue a lineman off a pole. Sure, we practice it in all of our various locations and we’re trained well, but rarely if ever do we go out into the woods and test our processes and procedures to see if we can make it happen during a crisis.

So he made it happen.

Employees perform CPR during mock accident
During the mock accident scenario, employees give
CPR to the fallen co-workers.
On a rainy, muddy Wednesday morning in April, in a rural area just outside Addy, Wash., Toutloff and Safety and Health Specialist Jim Womble spearheaded a mock accident scenario with an unsuspecting line crew. The scenario was pretty simple. Two linemen come into electrical contact on a pole and the remaining crew members were tasked with doing everything they could to save them.

But here’s where ‘pretty simple,’ gets thrown out the window.

Would radios work this far out in the woods? How about cell phones? Who would respond and how would they find the crew down a one-lane dirt road, miles and miles from the main highway? How would communications with the Colville and Spokane offices play out? Would MedStar be able to land in adverse weather conditions? And finally, but most importantly, could we save our fallen co-workers?

Communications Manager Dan Kolbet was given complete access to every aspect of the on-the-ground scenario, and captured the morning’s events on video. The video, “Avista Mock Electrical Accident,” tells the tale of the set-up, rationale and every step of the rescue process.

One key component of the mock electrical accident that is missing from the video is how our employees in Colville and Spokane performed when alerted of the surprise event. Many employees noted how real the process felt and that it created a few hours of tense work. Dozens of employees, from many departments came together in support of the crew on the ground from the initial call through the implementation of our Business Continuity Plan.

The event has been hailed as a success throughout the company for its breadth and depth, and for providing critical lessons that could only have been learn through such a challenging, yet simple scenario.
Published: 5/12/2010  9:57 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 12 , 2010
Post by Dan Kolbet, follow Dan_at_Avista on twitter

You may have noticed that the blog looks a little funky lately. Me too. Earlier this month, we underwent a “widening” of the Avistautilities.com website. It allowed us to gain more real estate/space horizontally on pages so we can provide more content for you, without the need to scroll as much. A great example is our homepage. Since this is a bit new, we’ll soon be finding ways to use that new space and I hope you all will like it.
 
Unfortunately the blog is a bit of a straggler. So, you’ll notice a rather large white band to the right of this post (using some web browsers like Internet Explorer). It won’t be there forever, but for now, just think of it as having the potential to be great, and wide.
 
(UPDATE May 20, 2010: The blog has now been sized to match the rest of the website. We're still tinkering with photos, but you'll notice the text and photos now fill more of the page. Yes!)

Update your browser pop-up message image
Depending on your web browser, you may have also gotten a pop-up message recently on the website that looks like the one on the right. It says that your web browser may be in need of an update and provides links to four popular browsers. Not to worry, you can still access the site with an older browser, but there might be a few features that look a little funny. To get rid of the message, just click the red “X” and it will magically disappear.

These changes are all a part of our commitment to provide you with the best web experience possible. If you have any questions or suggestions, let us know: conversation@avistautilities.com
 
Published: 5/12/2010  9:39 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post