Jul 26 , 2010
Post by Debbie Simock
 
Last March a posting on this blog told you about the request we made of the utility commissions in Washington and Idaho requesting rate changes to recover the costs of buying and generating power and upgrading the pipes, poles and wires that bring you energy when you want it. Today a settlement agreement was filed with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) that would result in an overall electric rate increase of 9.3 percent and a 2.6 percent increase in natural gas rates for our Idaho customers. The settlement must still be approved by the IPUC. The request in Washington is still pending.
 
Partially offsetting the increase for the next three years will be a bill credit customers will receive to return the balance of Avista’s deferred Idaho state income taxes from prior years.
 
Today Avista also filed its annual Power Cost Adjustment, also known as PCA, which requests an overall 2.6 percent increase in electric rates. The PCA is the difference between Avista’s actual costs of generating and purchasing power over the past 12 months and the cost currently included in customer rates.
 
It’s a lot of detailed rates information with ups and down. But, the bottom line - if you are a residential customer in Idaho using an average 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month, you could expect to see a $5.37 month increase beginning on October 1, for a revised bill of $86.27. If you’re a natural gas customer, your bill would increase about $1.71 per month for a revised bill of $59.40, also beginning October 1.
 
Avista also agreed to increase annual low-income weatherization programs and to increase funds for low-income energy efficiency and education. Idaho Community Action Programs administer these programs.
 
We see everyday how the rising cost of energy impacts families in the communities we serve. It’s one of the reasons we offer many programs to help customers with energy assistance.  Nobody likes an increase in their costs of everyday living like gasoline, food and energy. But the fact remains, that we need to make these requests to continue to provide you with the safe, reliable energy you depend on.
 
You may have questions about this rate change in Idaho and we’d like to help answer them or provide more information. You can post a comment below in the block or send us an email to conversations@avistautilities.com.
 
More information
Click here to read the news release
Published: 7/26/2010  3:35 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 22 , 2010
Reading by candle light á la Ben Franklin? More like Kindle light á la the smart grid
 
My Kindle DX
The Amazon Kindle is just one of the many e-book
readers out there gaining popularity and allowing for
more interactivity while reading.
Post by Dan Kolbet

Last weekend I took my family to a local lake for a day at the beach. We fit in just like everyone else. Young kids, umbrella, packed lunches and the ever-present smell of sunscreen.

While our daughters played in the sand in front of us, my wife and I both pulled out books to pass the time. But here’s where we differ. My wife’s novel was of the “old fashioned” variety, or if you prefer, a printed book. I flipped on my Amazon Kindle DX, which allowed me to access more than just my current spy novel, but my entire library from the past year.

I made sure to charge up the device at home the night before – to make sure I wouldn’t get stuck with a dead battery halfway through the next action sequence. I wasn’t too worried. One charge of a few hours usually lasts me about two weeks. I made it through a few short chapters in between trips to the waves and games of catch with the kids.

This relatively inconsequential experience got me thinking more about how much I depend on electricity. Sure, if the lights go out during a storm, you can’t escape it. But to pass the time you might grab a book (á la Ben Franklin with a candle). Better make sure your e-book has some juice.

This week, Amazon noted that it currently sells more Kindle e-books than hardcover books. The Kindle, Apple’s iPad, Barnes and Noble’s Nook, among others are continuing to grow in popularity and I would argue that they are more making reading more personal and enjoyable than ever before. No need to drive to your local store, browse pretty pictures on the covers of your books then commit to one, drive home and start reading only to find out this book isn’t for you. You can shop, sample and buy (or decide not to buy) from anywhere. You can set the font of your book to suit your tastes or visual needs. And you can carry your entire library with you all the time.

But you need one thing – electricity.

It’s true that you can plug in just about anywhere you go to get your e-book powered up, and thanks to the long battery life of these devices, you should be A-OK during storm season. But as these devices, or other electronics that we probably can’t imagine yet, become mainstream, our dependence on electricity will have saturated every aspect of our lives – even more than it is today. Just think of what your living room looked like 15 years ago. Did you have a DVR, laptop, DVD player, X-Box 360, smart phone, e-book or wireless modem, plugged in? I dare you to say yes. We just didn’t have access to this sort of technology for entertainment and communications back then.   

And “back then” wasn’t that long ago. So what will your living room (or trip to the beach) look like 5, 10 or 15 years from today? I certainly don’t have an answer, but I know it will continue to rely on energy, and I’m glad Avista will be around to provide it. 

We talk a lot about the smart grid and the future of energy. The definition of smart grid is really dependant on who is defining it, but I’d offer this – it’s about you having more control of your energy usage and your utility having better ways to deliver it. It will eventually provide choices for you to consider based on cost, source or whatever is important to you.

As common items like books, that have traditionally been non-electric, gain interactivity (and an electric charge), our use of energy will eventually seep into every aspect of our lives. From a ‘pursuit of happiness’ standpoint, that’s great, but there’s one thing that I urge you to remember: all these digital comforts have to be powered, so be smart about your usage.  At the same time we’ll continue to plan for the future to make sure we can meet your needs.
 
Published: 7/22/2010  10:19 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 19 , 2010
The Spokane River
The Spokane River through downtown Spokane.
 
One year into our new FERC license on the river, big projects happening
 

Watch for activity on the downtown Spokane stretch of the Spokane River beginning this week, as Avista starts work on several projects to protect and enhance fish, wildlife, water quality, recreation, cultural and aesthetic resources related to our Spokane River hydroelectric project.

Spokane River Activities Map
Click to view a map of the activities happening on
the Spokane River.
Over the next few months, visitors to the stretch of the river between Upper Falls and Monroe Street Dams will see equipment and temporary work structures in and around the river, including a crane near the river above Monroe Street Dam, intermittent aesthetic flows at Upper Falls Dam, sandbags, water bladders and moving equipment in the Upper Falls area. All of the equipment will be handled and operated with an emphasis on public safety and protecting the surrounding environment.

Work taking place includes a pilot study in the north channel of the river to learn what modifications can be made in order to return the river to a more natural state, and removal of accumulated rock, gravel and sediment at Monroe Street Dam. The work will begin in July and August as flows drop to their summer levels, and could be extended into early autumn.

While fishery work may not be as visible as other activities, it’s just as important. While we’re studying the river channel, biologists and contractors will be working in the stretch of the river between Upper Falls Reservoir and Monroe Street Dam, primarily on a study to assess whether fish can become trapped or stranded in the north channel of the river when water levels are low.

In late June, 3,000 catchable, sterile rainbow trout were planted in Upper Falls Reservoir. Another 3,000 fish will be planted in Upper Falls Reservoir this fall. The first year of a three-year fish population assessment will also be conducted in the Upper Falls Reservoir this fall.

Watch for updates as we progress, and see the attached map and handout for specific details, locations and approximate dates/timelines.

A year into the 50-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission license to operate our five hydroelectric dams on the Spokane River (Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, Nine Mile Falls and Long Lake), the work Avista will do is just getting started. These significant environmental measures will benefit both the communities and the natural resources where our facilities are located. Protecting resources and responsibly operating our dams helps us continue to generate low-cost, renewable hydroelectric energy.
Published: 7/19/2010  11:10 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 16 , 2010
Lake Spokane above Nine Mile Dam
 

The installation of new operable spillgates at Nine Mile Dam began this week as Avista finished drawing down Nine Mile Reservoir Thursday to allow a work barge and crew to begin. The upgraded system will allow Avista to pre-program desired heights and give operators the ability to raise and lower the height of the spillway at any time, incrementally if needed, in order to maintain the reservoir pool at a more constant level throughout the entire year.

The reservoir level must be lowered during construction to allow the contractor to erect the new spillgates. During construction, the pool level will be 2 to 4 feet below the spillway crest (about 12-14 feet below full pool), which may be lower than what it has been in the past when the flashboards were erected each year in mid-summer.

Construction should be complete and the reservoir level back to full pool by November of 2010. Our blog post, “Nine Mile Dam Spillway Improvement Project starts this summer” has more detailed information about the project.

As a side note, to announce this news, this week we used a new e-mail tool for communicating directly with customers, river users, property owners and stakeholders interested in operational and environmental activities related to our Spokane River Project. This is one more way we’ll try to get  information about river and reservoir levels, stewardship work and other river operations to folks quickly and directly. If you’re interested in being part of Avista’s mailing list for Spokane River News, send an e-mail to spokanerivernews@avistacorp.com.
Published: 7/16/2010  10:34 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 16 , 2010
Post by Dan Kolbet

Our Energy on the Street project continues today with customer interviews in downtown Spokane, near the Spokane Transit Plaza and tonight at Avista Stadium before the ballgame starts. If you’ve got a question for Avista – one that you’ve always wanted to ask, but never really had the chance, come find me today. If you can’t make it to one of these locations, you can always send us an e-mail at Conversation@Avistautilities.com.

I’ve really enjoyed the two full days of customer interviews in Stevens County and Coeur d’Alene City Park. I’ve spoken to customers who have nothing but great things to say about our company and customer service, but also those who have criticized aspects of our business. Whichever category you fall into (maybe both), we want to hear from you – that’s the whole point of the Energy on the Street project. We’ll have customer questions and employee answers up on our website later this summer.
Published: 7/16/2010  8:58 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 13 , 2010
Chataqua 2010 interview
Chataqua 2010 inteview
Many attendees of Chataqua 2010, in Chewelah were kind enough to talk
energy with us last weekend. There is still time for you to participate,
contact us at Conversation@Avistautilities.com
Project gets answers to your most pressing energy questions

Post by Dan Kolbet

“Are you an Avista customer? Can I talk to you about energy?” I think I said that about a thousand times on Friday.

As part of a project called Energy on the Street, we’re interviewing Avista customers by getting their opinions and questions about energy on video. Friday I was at Chataqua 2010 in Chewelah, Wash., talking to customers from Stevens County (and all over Washington and Idaho) about what they care about regarding energy and Avista.

We’re not just getting questions from you – we’re answering them too. Avista employees are providing answers to these questions, also on camera. Both the question and the answer will be posted later this summer on our conversation website.

Want to get in on the action? We’ll be at Coeur d’Alene City Park tomorrow for a few hours starting at 11 a.m. On Friday we’ll be in downtown Spokane at or near the STA Plaza in the afternoon and then at the Avista Stadium outer concourse at 5:30 p.m. until game time.

Look for the white shirts that say “Avista” on the front and “Ask Avista” on the back. Trust me, you can’t miss us.

What are people asking? They want to know about rates and costs, energy efficiency, renewable power, climate change and what the future of energy really looks like. I was pleased with how open and willing the customers I met on Friday were to talk about energy, especially since we were grabbing them out of the blue during a community event.

If you’re interested in getting a question answered on camera by an Avista employee (and you can’t come to the events listed above), send us an e-mail at Conversation@Avistautilities.com
Published: 7/13/2010  3:38 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 06 , 2010
Water levels allow spill gates at Post Falls Dam to be closed

Post by Hugh Imhof

Avista is advising Spokane River users that river recreation is now permitted in the area between the Spokane Street Bridge and the Post Falls Dam. River volumes have dropped sufficiently to allow the spill gates at the dam to be closed. 

The City of Post Falls boat launch at Q’emiln Park is expected to be opened to the public today. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and the July 4 holiday.  The median date for closing the gates is June 22; however the date has occurred as late as July 8 in 2008 and as early as May 22 in 2005.

Avista expects summer operation at the dam to continue through Labor Day, as long as weather conditions allow.  River users are cautioned that weather conditions can cause rapid changes in water levels. Please exercise caution when using the waterways.

For current information on Spokane River flows and Coeur d'Alene Lake elevation (includes anticipated changes in flow and elevation for the coming week) call 208-769-1357. For information on Spokane River flows and Lake Spokane elevation (includes anticipated changes in flow and elevation for the coming week) call 509-495-8043.

Links to weather and water flow information are available here: http://www.avistautilities.com/inside/resources/Pages/waterflow.aspx
Published: 7/6/2010  10:33 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 06 , 2010
Clark Fork Quarterly Newsletter
First edition of the Clark Fork Project Newsletter.
Post by Anna Scarlett

Avista’s two hydroelectric dams on the Clark Fork River, Cabinet Gorge and Noxon Rapids, generate more than 80 percent of the clean, renewable hydropower that we generate for our customers throughout Idaho and Washington. Last year marked the 50th anniversary of the first power generated at Noxon Rapids, our largest hydro facility and, arguably, the most impressive.

In addition to the daily work of operating of these impressive plants, more than 40 employees work with dozens of stakeholders to protect the natural resources around them, and help contribute to the communities and the economy of northern Idaho and Montana through their efforts.

Want to know more? We’ve launched a quarterly newsletter highlighting our operations and environmental activities and spotlighting employees and individuals doing this important daily work. Each season, we plan to distribute the newsletter stakeholders, Avista employees, customers and others who sign up for it. Take a look here.
 

  
Published: 7/6/2010  8:34 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 02 , 2010
Professional home energy auditors
Twitter user @LilacCityRealtr (Realtor Jim Grapes)
snaped this pic of the professional home energy
auditors performing the inspection of his home this
week. He said, “The house passed, but there's small
list of things, one is to caulk around my upstairs
bedroom windows. I didn't expect that.”
Post by Dan Kolbet

When local real estate professional Jim Grapes  tweeted a photo about his Avista in-home energy audit yesterday, he probably didn’t expect to see it on the Avista Blog – but we love this stuff!

The tweet, sent from his @LilacCityRealtr Twitter account, included the photo of Jared and Mark (seen on the right), the professional energy auditors who reviewed every nook and cranny of his home in Spokane County.

Through Twitter Jim later said, “The house passed, but there's small list of things, one is to caulk around my upstairs bedroom windows. I didn't expect that.”

I think that’s the beauty of Avista’s in home audit program. We’ve all got a pretty good idea about things we should do around the house to be more energy efficient, but a third-party can review every aspect and point out where you can get the most bang for your buck. It might be something simple like caulking windows – or maybe even bigger stuff like a water heater or insulation.

What is the 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.

Jim obviously knows homes and the value of an energy dollar. He wanted to share his story in the hopes that others would take advantage of the program too. You can find him at www.lilaccityrealestate.com.

Thank you for sharing your story Jim.
 
You may also like reading this Avista Blog post
 
Published: 7/2/2010  11:17 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 02 , 2010
Post Falls Dam
 
High water conditions require open spill gates at Post Falls Dam
 
Post by Hugh Imhof

Avista is advising Spokane River users that boating and swimming remain prohibited in the area between the Spokane Street Bridge and the Post Falls Dam through the holiday weekend.  Last week’s heavy rainfall in North Idaho has resulted in higher than normal flows in the Spokane River and Avista must spill the extra water. Because of the open spill gates, it is not safe to be in the water above the dam and a Post Falls city ordinance prevents river use in that area.

Once the spill gates can be closed the Q’emiln Park boat launch will be opened and river recreation can resume. Typically this occurs sometime between Memorial Day and the July 4 holiday.  In recent years the median date for closing the gates has been June 18, however the date has occurred as late as July 8 in 2008 and as early as May 22 in 2005.

Avista expects to begin summer operation at the dam as soon as weather conditions allow.

The river above the Spokane Street Bridge and Coeur d’Alene Lake are accessible with several relatively close public boat launches open. They include the launch at Blackwell Island, Third Street Launch, Higgins Point, Boothe’s Landing and Mica Bay.

For current information on Spokane River flows and Coeur d'Alene Lake elevation (includes anticipated changes in flow and elevation for the coming week) call 208-769-1357. For information on Spokane River flows and Lake Spokane elevation (includes anticipated changes in flow and elevation for the coming week) call 509-495-8043.

Links to weather and water flow information are available on the Avista Utilities web site at http://www.avistautilities.com/inside/resources/Pages/waterflow.aspx

River users are cautioned that weather conditions can cause rapid changes in water levels. Please exercise caution when using the waterways.
Published: 7/2/2010  10:04 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post