Sep 30 , 2010
Natural gas crews install a gas pipeline.
Avista crews install a natural gas pipeline. Today's
rate request is focused on portion of the bill that
recovers Avista’s cost of delivering natural gas.

If you’re a natural gas customer in Oregon, you may be confused about why Avista requested a rate decrease in late August and today we requested an increase.

It comes down to the two portions that make up a natural gas bill, whether you’re a customer in Oregon, Washington or Idaho. About 65 percent of an Avista customer’s natural gas bill is the cost of the natural gas used during the month. The remaining 35 percent is Avista’s cost of delivering that natural gas to customers – the pipes and people.

The August filing in Oregon was Avista’s annual request - called a Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment or PGA - to true-up the cost of natural gas purchased over the year to meet customer needs. The request was for a 2.1 percent, or $1.25, decrease that impacts the natural gas portion of a monthly bill – the 65 percent. If approved by the Public Utility Commission of Oregon, or PUC, the lower rate would take effect Nov. 1, in time for winter.

Today’s request was for an overall 5.6 percent increase in the portion of the bill that recovers Avista’s cost of delivering the natural gas – the 35 percent portion. If the request is approved by the PUC, a residential customer using an average 46 therms a month would see a $3.71 increase, or 6.2 percent, increase sometimes in the first half of 2011. Read more in the news release and watch a video to learn about what makes up a rate case.

The bottom line is we expect the net result of these two requests will be about a 4 percent increase, if both are approved. If so, your natural gas rates will still be comparable to those in 2004.

You’re probably wondering why Avista doesn’t make all rate adjustments at the same time. We do that whenever we can, but it isn’t always possible. For example, some filings are mandated by the state utility commissions to be submitted at specific times of the year, while other filings depend on issues facing the company.

No matter what the timing, we’ll let you know about rates activity that impacts you. You can let us know what you’re thinking about rates or any other topic that’s on your mind by posting a comment in the block below or sending us an email at conversation@avistautilities.com.
Published: 9/30/2010  4:08 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 27 , 2010
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
This morning I got an e-mail from a friend who said she heard an Avista Energy on the Street radio spot on her drive to work this morning. She checked out the website, www.AvistaUtilities.com/Street, as a result. It worked! Pretty cool.

We did radio spots to get the word out to you - our customers - that this interactive tool is available for you to use. If you didn’t know about it, I couldn’t very well expect you to watch a video or ask a question, right? Now you know.

I’ve got a personal stake in this project because I was lucky enough to be the guy interviewing our customers and employees and talking about energy. I was selected to record the radio spots (and write them too), for that reason. I want to see it succeed, but this project is not about me. Our customers and employees are the real stars of Energy on the Street and I think if you have a chance to review the videos, you’ll see that too. Like I say in the radio spots, I met some great people when we hit the streets with a camera to talk energy.

If you’re not a radio listener, here are the audio clips.

15-Second Spot: Energy on the Street, Pressing Questions
 
15 second spot
 
30-Second Spot: Energy on the Street, What your Neighbors Are Talking About
 
Play 30-Second Spot

If you’ve got a question you’d like answered for Energy on the Street, e-mail Conversation@avistautilities.com
 
Published: 9/27/2010  3:01 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 24 , 2010
Play video
 
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
Energy on the Street
Where does renewable power come from?
Avista Stadium is powered 100% by renewable energy through Avista's Block-a-Block program. Where does that energy come from? (0:37)
 
This video is just one of the Energy on the Street customer questions and Avista answers. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to visit this interactive website. It launched on Sept. 1. We'll be adding more videos to the website in October.
 
Find out what your neighbors are asking about at Energy on the Street.
 
Published: 9/24/2010  4:24 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 22 , 2010

J.D. Power
Have you heard of J.D. Power and Associates? It’s the organization that hands out kudos and neat trophies to deserving businesses each year for outstanding customer satisfaction. Well, we hit their list today.

Following a survey of natural gas customers, Avista achieved the highest ranking in the West among mid-size natural gas utilities for excellence in customer satisfaction. This is a great recognition for our employees – from the folks in the contact center who handle thousands of calls each week about bills and who help customers with payment plans, to the service personnel who maintain more than 11,000 miles of gas distribution and service pipelines. From the engineers who plan the construction of gas lines to serve a growing number of customers, to the web technicians who create easy-to-use resources like the Online Energy Analyzer. And for many, many other hard-working Avista folks who truly care about providing the best service to our customers, safely and reliably.

We’ve been listening closely to our customers and doing the right things to serve them well, as the J.D. Power and Associates 2010 study affirms. And we’ll continue to do those things going forward. We encourage you to browse this website and experience some of the ways we’re interacting and join the conversation
 
Published: 9/22/2010  11:24 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 22 , 2010
 
Today Avista received word that the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) has approved the settlement agreement Avista and other parties reached on July 26 in the company’s request to increase electric and natural gas prices to recover costs for providing reliable electric and natural gas service to our Idaho customers. Read about the agreement in our blog posting and the IPUC news release here.

Today’s approval by the IPUC means that the electric rate increase will be phased-in over three years beginning Oct. 1, 2010, by 3.6 percent, by 3.9 percent on Oct. 1, 2011, and by 1.74 percent on Oct. 1, 2012. The approved natural gas increase will be phased-in over two years, beginning Oct. 1, by 1.9 percent, and by 0.72 percent on Oct. 1, 2011.

An important component of today’s approval is an increase in funding for low-income weatherization and for low-income outreach and education programs about energy conservation. While energy costs will continue to increase because of, among other reasons, rising power supply costs and federal mandates, energy efficiency is a key step in helping all customers manage their energy costs. Find out more about how Avista can help you with energy saving information, including rebates and incentives at www.everylittlebit.com.

We’ll continue our focus on reducing costs and gaining efficiencies wherever possible without compromising safety or reliability, which we take very seriously. We’ll keep you updated on what we’re doing.

As usual, we’d like to hear what’s on your mind. Post a comment in the block below or send us an email at conversation@avistautilities.com


 
Published: 9/22/2010  9:04 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 16 , 2010
Post by Bryan Cox, Director of Natural Gas Delivery

Natural gas image
Natural gas image
Natural gas image
The recent natural gas explosion and fire in California has prompted some customers to ask questions about our pipeline system and natural gas safety. While this was a terrible incident, it provides us with the opportunity to discuss the mainly-distribution system we operate, what Avista does to ensure a safe system and what you should do if you smell natural gas.

We can’t speculate on the circumstances of the California incident, though we do know the pipeline that ruptured was a 30-inch, steel transmission line. While Avista operates about 125 miles of transmission lines in Washington and Oregon, this represents less than 1 percent of all the pipelines in our system. Our company is mainly a distribution company – operating about 11,125 miles of distribution/service pipelines.

The distinction between transmission and distribution is a key one. A transmission line is generally a higher pressure, larger diameter pipeline. Roughly 99 percent of our pipelines are lower-pressure, smaller diameter distribution lines. These are lines you would find running down a residential street and to your meter.

Following all state and federal regulations regarding our natural gas lines, Avista routinely conducts assessments and leak surveys. The survey includes physically walking the lines and searching for leaks using highly-sensitive equipment. If any concerns are discovered, we make improvements or repairs to ensure public safety. We are also subject to regular audits by our regulatory agencies.

What can you do if you smell gas?
We also rely on our customers to let us know if they smell natural gas, so we can respond appropriately. Because safety is a top priority, one of the first things our phone system will ask you is: “Are you calling about a natural gas leak?”

If you smell natural gas (which is odorized to smell like rotten eggs) - follow these tips:
• Don’t do anything that might create a spark. Examples include smoking, lighting matches, turning electrical switches on or off, using the telephone, running  equipment.
• Open your windows and outside doors, if possible.
• Evacuate everyone in your home or building, and stay out until someone from Avista Utilities tells you it is safe to return.
• Keep others away from the area.
• Call Avista Utilities at (800) 227-9187, from a neighbor’s phone.

Why call 811?
811 is the universal “Call Before You Dig” number. The most common incidents regarding natural gas lines involve third-party damage, such as a contractor or homeowner digging into a buried distribution line. Customers should always call 811, two business days prior to digging. The service is free to have the locations of underground lines located and marked.

Given the recent headlines coming out of California, it’s natural for all of us to be asking questions – and that’s why we’re writing about these concerns on the Avista Blog. If you’d like more information about natural gas safety, click here.
Published: 9/16/2010  4:23 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 16 , 2010
 
Each September, natural gas utilities in Washington and Idaho make annual PGA, or Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment, requests to true-up the cost of wholesale natural gas they purchased to serve customers with the amount included in customer rates. Below is a chart that shows wholesale natural gas prices and the amount included in customer rates. We told you about the Oregon PGA filings here a couple of weeks ago.

Natural gas pricing/rates chart
Natural gas daily and future prices, shown with Avista
rate comparison.
Yesterday Avista filed PGA requests with the state public utility commissions in both states that would increase natural gas prices by $2.97 a month for an average residential customer in Washington and by $2.75 in Idaho. If approved, the new rates would become effective Nov. 1. It’s important to know that these are pass-through costs – Avista does not mark up the cost of the gas – so there is no impact on company earnings. Read more about the PGA requests and a $1.42 increase in electric prices for residential and small-farm customers in the news release.

Last year, natural gas customers received a 30 percent reduction in their rates because of significant decreases in wholesale natural gas prices. If the 2010 PGA increase is approved by the utility commissions, natural gas prices for our Washington and Idaho customers would still be at similar levels to those in 2004 – that’s good news as we head into winter.

As usual, we’d like to hear what’s on your mind. Post a comment in the block below or send us an email at conversations@avistautilities.com
 
Published: 9/16/2010  4:02 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 15 , 2010
plau video
 
Post and video by Dan Kolbet

In late August four teams of Avista electric linemen participated in the annual internal Pole Top Rescue competition. Teams competed to rescue “Joe” who had come into electrical contact on the top of a pole.

The teams weren’t just racing for the best time, but were also being judged on communication, climbing, handling the victim, checking vital signs and activities on the ground, such as CPR.

The winning team advanced onto the prelims and then hopefully to the state finals.

These sorts of exercises stress the importance of safety on the job and reiterate the necessary skills that every lineman practices in case of an emergency in the field. 

Watch the video to check out the sights and sounds of the competition.
 
Published: 9/15/2010  2:23 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 15 , 2010
Lake CdA
 
 
Avista began its annual fall drawdown of Lake Coeur d’Alene on Sept. 7. We’ll be gradually lowering the lake to about a foot from full pool by the end of September, and then an additional 1.5 feet per month until it reaches its winter level. We want shoreline property owners and boaters to be aware of the annual draft so they can make seasonal preparations, including removing boats from the water and securing docks for low-water conditions.

Avista manages the lake level to prepare for spring runoff, to mitigate flooding in the winter and to optimize power production. As part of our FERC license to operate our Spokane River Hydroelectric Project, which includes Post Falls Dam, Avista is required to maintain the level of Coeur d’Alene Lake at summer full-pool elevation of 2,128 feet from as early as practical (in May or June) until the Tuesday after Labor Day.

Following Labor Day, the lake is lowered to about 6 to 7 feet below summer level over a several-month period. The slow drawdown increases flows of the Spokane River and slightly decreases river levels between the lake and Post Falls Bridge. Spill gates at Post Falls Dam are not opened during the initial stages of the drawdown, and the river should remain open for recreation until November; however, river users should be aware that water levels can fluctuate at any time depending upon weather and dam operations.

For river levels, visit www.avistautilities.com/environment/ourpart/recreation. Avista has a 24-hour telephone information line that provides notification of anticipated elevation changes on Lake Coeur d’Alene, Lake Spokane and the Spokane River during the subsequent 24-hour and one-week periods. In Idaho, call (208) 769-1357; in Washington call (509) 495-8043. The recorded information is provided to advise shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in the lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use.

Avista also has a new e-mail news system for customers, recreationists, property owners and others interested in news and activities related to Avista’s Spokane River Hydroelectric Project, including river levels and dam operations.

To be added to the mailing list, send an e-mail to Spokanerivernews@avistacorp.com.  Please do not send general questions or comments to this e-mail address, as it is not monitored constantly. E-mail messages that are sent out will have name(s) and contact information of Avista personnel for customers wanting more information.

Spokane River users should always use caution as water levels may change quickly. This warning applies to all areas of the river, especially around hydroelectric facilities.

By obeying warning signs, using common sense and following area rules and regulations, boaters, swimmers and other recreational users can safely enjoy the Inland Northwest’s scenic waterways.

Follow these safety tips:
• Be alert for debris, obstructions, and partially submerged objects.
• Always obey warning signs near dams.
• Never cross boater restraining cables or buoy lines that designate areas where boats should not operate.
• Never anchor your boat below a dam – water levels can change rapidly with little warning.
• Watch for overhead cables and power lines, especially if you’re in a sailboat or catamaran.
• Always wear personal flotation devices (PFDs), no matter what your age or swimming ability.
• Never operate watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
Published: 9/15/2010  2:04 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 14 , 2010
Garden
Avista Employees' Community Garden.
 
Can you donate garden produce to your community food pantry? Yes you can.

Remember the nursery rhyme about little Mary, Mary quite contrary and the status of her garden? It was full of silver bells, cockle shells and pretty maids all in a row. Gardens have changed some in the 300 years since the poem was first published. But one thing remains the same: they are a lot of work. But, the results are so satisfying.

In the case of the Avista Employees’ Green Thumb Community Garden, the hard work is shared among many helping hands, and the produce benefits those most in need in our community. A core group of dedicated Avista staff members have worked the raised-garden beds of the garden before and after work and on their lunch hours for about six years. Periodically, they are joined by students from Whitworth and Gonzaga universities, who perform community service work with the kind of joyful spirit you’d expect from college students. On the other end of the age spectrum, elder volunteers from Riverview Retirement Community bring the wisdom and patience of age to the bounty the garden produces year after year.

Each week, the harvest from the garden goes to Spokane’s Women and Children’s Free Restaurant, a non-profit agency that serves hot, nutritious evening meals for those who otherwise might not eat fresh produce or balanced fare. Every Friday through the summer, these families in need also receive fresh vegetables to cook in their own kitchen. So often these are the missing elements on their dinner tables, because they often don’t fit into a shrinking monthly food budget.

So, Mary, Mary might not be so contrary if she spent her time with community volunteers like those who work the Green Thumb Garden, and her results might be more satisfying than cockle shells. You can increase your garden satisfaction, as well. If you are finishing the harvest of your garden for the year, consider gleaning the last of the tomatoes, potatoes and those ever-present zucchinis or any other veggies you’ve nurtured and donating them to a food pantry in your community. Your green thumb will appreciate the generosity.
 
Published: 9/14/2010  12:53 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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