Dec 27 , 2010
Avista is decked out for the holidays - virtually
Avista's HQ building on Mission decorated for 99 cents.
Post by Dan Kolbet

I didn’t get the Christmas lights up this year. Typical excuses. We were out of town. It snowed too much during the weekend I could have done it. No hot chocolate to warm me up afterward. Whatever. Anyhow, it just didn’t get done. But I got an e-mail this morning that I thought was worth passing along if you were like me and went sans holiday lights this year, but still want to show your holiday spirit.

For 99 cents you can download an app for your iPhone called Musical Lights that allows you to make nifty light and music shows over a picture of whatever you chose. Shown here is an image I took years ago of Avista’s HQ on Mission in Spokane. Five minutes of tinkering and I came up with this jolly little scene. To share the music scene your friends also have to own the app, but you could always just hand over your phone and say, “watch this.” (Now that’s old school).

For those who are a little more creative, forget the app and just drop an image into PhotoShop and create the holiday display of your dreams. Stick it on Facebook and nobody will know the difference unless of course they roll by your house later that day . . . but that’s not very likely.

If you’re really a forward-thinking person (and maybe a bit of a penny pincher) you also might want to make a trip to your local hardware store and pick up some LED holiday lights for cheap. My wife dragged me to Target yesterday and they still had hundreds of boxes of LED lights for 50% off for after Christmas sales. Prices for LED lights have fallen for each of the last few years, but I still think half-off is a good deal. So stock up for next year or throw those lights on the gutters and ring in 2011 in style.

Earlier this month we did a blog post on how much holiday lights could cost you for a month of use. If you’re interested, check out: Keep up the holiday cheer with efficient lighting, decorations.

Just a few ideas to brighten your holidays.
Published: 12/27/2010  10:38 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 22 , 2010
 
Each year around Christmas Eve, I help put together a Holiday Edition of our employee publication, The Avista e.view. For the last four years we’ve collected heartwarming stories of fun holiday traditions, charitable giving and winter-related goodness from the communities we serve.

The publication will come out tomorrow morning, but I wanted to give you a sneak peek at the article I submitted this year. It’s a personal one about charitable giving and my kids. Hope you enjoy the article below.

Giving the gift of giving to my kids
I feel blessed to be an Avista employee. For the past four years I’ve grown as a professional, but also on a personal level. The spirit of giving at Avista is evident throughout the year and it has certainly opened my eyes to the many well-deserving charitable organizations in the communities we serve.

photo
My first-grader donates her Christmas gift to the
puppies and kitties at the Spokane Humane Society.
photo

My kindergartner donates her Christmas gift to the
Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery.

Kids want presents, I understand that, but given the commercialism of our American holidays, it can easily become the focal point of the season. So this year when both of my kids came home from school with a page-long list of presents they wanted for Christmas, my wife and I thought it might be time to rethink the gift giving in our family.

Instead of buying them another Barbie accessory or some Justin Bieber swag, we gave our kids $25 each to donate to the charity of their choice. We called a family meeting and discussed the focus of half a dozen local charities. This was an interesting exercise to talk about what types of needs exist in our community and how fortunate we are to be able to give to others.

Our first grader decided she wanted to provide food for puppies and kitties. Her donation went to the Spokane Humane Society. She had a sheepish grin on her face when both employees behind the counter made it a point to thank her for her gift. Until she held the check in her hands and then went to the actual location where the money would be spent, I don’t think she really understood what it meant to give.

Our kindergartner wanted to help babies and their families. She decided the Vanessa Behan Crisis Nursery was the right place. With so many charities out there, I was a little surprised when she was so adamant that this was where she wanted her gift to go, but it made me very, very proud of her for understanding those needs at such a young age.

We hope to make this gift of charitable gift giving an annual holiday tradition for our kids. As they grow and learn more about the causes they care about I suspect they will look forward to helping give during the holidays, rather than just being on the receiving end.
 
Avista employees and our customers are very generous this time of year. If this article inspires you to give this year, I encourage you to donate to Avista’s Project Share Fund.
 
Published: 12/22/2010  3:57 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 22 , 2010
Powering our Future video
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

Before the year ends, I wanted to share a few more details on our Powering Our Future: Energy Opportunities, Choices and Costs, held this fall. A highlights video of the event is embedded above, but if you can also view presentations and pictures from the event too.

Creating a sustainable energy future will take all of us working together, bringing new ideas to the table and sharing in a new era of securing, delivering and using energy.  Over 250 people gathered in Spokane Valley for the event.

National energy leaders and Avista energy experts engaged everyone in a dialogue about energy. We have posted the presentations from the event. You can also view pictures taken at the event and watch a video recap (above).

Questions about the event or any of the topics? E-mail us.
 
Published: 12/22/2010  9:32 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 16 , 2010
At issue is how energy assistance funds are credited to customer accounts
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

Earlier today Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission issued a news release regarding Avista and its application of energy assistance grants, or pledge monies, to the accounts of customers who have been disconnected for non-payment. Below is our news release, sent out at 4 p.m. today, that provides a few explanatory details on the subject.

If you have any questions about this topic, send us an e-mail at conversation@avistautilities.com

News release
Avista Reviewing Commission Notice of Non-Compliance

At issue is how energy assistance funds are credited to customer accounts

SPOKANE, Wash. – Dec 16, 2010, 4:00 PST:  Avista is reviewing the notice it received today from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) stating the company is considered in violation of certain state consumer protection rules primarily relating to the application of energy assistance grants, or pledge monies, to the accounts of customers who have been disconnected for non-payment. The company was assessed a $62,100 fine.

“Avista and the UTC share a common concern for our customers and both want to help them avoid an interruption in their service because of non-payment,” said Vicki Weber, Avista’s director of customer service. “All energy assistance grants customers receive are fully applied to their account - that fact is not in question by the UTC. We believe that certain aspects of the rules are unclear, and we look forward to working with commission staff in order to avoid future misunderstandings.”

When an energy assistance grant is received for a customer who has had a service interruption for non-payment, Avista applies the funds to the customer’s past due amount - including prior balance - to help bring the account balance to zero. Prior balance is the dollar amount, excluding deposit amounts owed, the utility has billed to the customer for the energy they have already used and for which the utility has not received payment at the time the service was disconnected for nonpayment.

At issue is whether energy assistance grants should be applied only to current and future amounts billed since the service was reconnected, or whether assistance grants should also be applied to past due amounts.

 “Avista has a long history of care and support for our customers,” Weber said. “Through Avista’s tariff-based Low-Income Rate Assistance Program (LIRAP), approximately $3.3 million in energy assistance is available annually for qualifying customers and approximately $1.7 million for natural gas customers.  Additionally, $2 million in assistance is available to help qualifying customers improve the energy efficiency of their homes through Avista’s low-income weatherization program.”

In the fourth quarter of 2010, Avista shareholders also contributed $425,000 to Project Share, a program which provides emergency energy assistance to qualifying households that have exhausted other avenues of aid, regardless of the fuel used to heat the home. Recipients of Project Share assistance do not have to be Avista customers.

The notice and associated fine are a result of an audit conducted by the UTC on randomly selected Avista customers who had their electric and/or natural gas service disconnected between Oct. 15 and 31, 2009, because of non-payment. Avista was one of five regulated electric and natural gas utilities in Washington State that were similarly audited.

Avista has up to 15 days to pay the $62,100 fine, request a hearing to contest the violations or request a reduction in the fine.
Published: 12/16/2010  4:19 PM | 1  Comment | 0  Links to this post

Dec 15 , 2010

LED lights

LED lights on an area home.

-Energy efficient holiday LED lights can add about two cents a day to your energy bill
 
Post by Debbie Simock

If you want to be both festive and frugal with your holiday lighting this season, make sure to include LED lights in your decorations. LED lights use about 1/10th of the electricity used by traditional holiday light bulbs.

In addition to saving energy, ENERGY STAR qualified LED lights can last up to 10 years, are cool to the touch which reduces the risk of fire and are more durable than glass incandescent lights which means less risk of electrical exposure with broken bulbs.

Popular fan-driven inflatable lawn decorations can also add to your seasonal energy bill. An inflatable ranging in size from 4 feet to 12 feet can add from $1.11 to $1.68 to your bill if run for 8 hours a day for 30 days. When used for 24 hours a day for 30 days, the additional cost would be from $3.34 to $5.05 per inflatable.

Another tip for managing your seasonal energy bill is to use a timer for outdoor and tree lights and for inflatable lawn decorations. Be sure the timer is designed to handle the total wattage plugged into it.

When installing any type of holiday lighting, keep in mind the following safety tips:
- Watch for overhead power lines when installing outdoor lights.
- Check lights for broken or cracked sockets, frayed or bare wires, or loose connections. Discard damaged sets.
- Do not overload outlets or plug more than three strings of lights into an extension cord.
- Unplug lights before watering the tree and keep cords and light sets away from the water.

For additional energy savings tips and information on Avista’s energy efficiency rebate and incentive programs that can help your home use less energy year round, visit www.Everylittlebit.com.
 
Published: 12/15/2010  2:43 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 10 , 2010
 
Avista field employees always wear an Avista photo identification badge and often wear Avista apparel and drive clearly marked Avista vehicles.
Avista field employees always wear an Avista photo
identification badge and often wear Avista apparel
and drive clearly marked Avista vehicles.
‘Tis the season for holiday cheer, and we want to help make sure it stays that way for you by sharing information on Avista’s standard business practices that can keep you safe from scams and misrepresentations.

Avista does not partner with any business that goes door-to-door through neighborhoods selling attic insulation or other services, except for our Home Energy Audit contractors in Spokane County who wear Avista identification badges. We also do not recommend any business to our customers. We do offer a number of energy efficiency rebates and incentives, but we work directly with you, our customer, on those programs.

Our field employees always wear an Avista photo ID badge and often will be wearing Avista apparel and driving a clearly marked Avista vehicle. Employees typically do not need access to a home or business unless the customer has contacted us about a specific problem or program.  Also, employees do not phone or email customers asking for confidential information.

If you are contacted by someone representing themselves as Avista, you can call us at any time at (800) 227-9187 to verify the identification of an employee and the purpose of the contact with you.

It pays to be cautious, regardless of the season.
Published: 12/10/2010  12:15 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 01 , 2010
Rates video - click to play
 
We’ve been writing about rates all year
 
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
The conclusion of Avista’s General Rate cases in Washington begins today as new rates for electricity and natural gas become effective.
 
The rate cases were originally filed way back in March. An all-party settlement was reached in August that was approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission in November.
 
General rate cases can take up to 11 months to come to a resolution in Washington, 7 months in Idaho and 10 months in Oregon. All year we updated this blog when key events occurred in the rate-adjustment process. Here’s a few posts to check out regarding rates activities in Washington, Idaho and Oregon this year.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Published: 12/1/2010  12:06 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 01 , 2010
Winter is here
Winter is here in the Northwest. And somewhere inside this picture is a utility pole and power line.
Yep, #WinterisHereNW.
 
Follow Jessie on Twitter: @AvistaCares

Last year at this time, we did a series on Twitter using the hashtag #WinterCountDown to get our followers ready for the cold weather and holidays ahead. This year, the cold weather beat us and the snow just keeps piling up. So we’re not counting down to winter this year; we’re going to plow right through it from now to December 31. So begins #WinterisHereNW.

Winter doesn’t officially begin until December 21, but Mother Nature and La Nina have other plans for us here in the Northwest. So let’s get the upper hand early on and at least get on a level playing field. This means knowing where the energy hogs are in your home and managing their energy consumption. We can help you identify these little monsters. It also means being aware of using extra energy during the busy holidays – with more people at home, more cooking and entertaining going on, and for many of us, more lights both inside and out. We have some tips to help you save energy and still enjoy the season.

This year our elderly and infirm neighbors and family members will need assistance more than ever – shoveling walkways and keeping meters and vents cleared of snow. And some folks may need help paying their energy bills this winter – we have assistance tips there, too.

We’ll be tweeting about all of this and more in the coming weeks. Come join our journey this month. And tell us if there are specific topics you’d like to know more about. We’ll do our best to help you do your best this winter.
 
More info on Twitter
To follow the #WinterisHereNW series, watch for the hashtag being used by Avista's three Twitter accounts. See Avista’s live Twitter feeds, @AvistaUtilities, AvistaCares and @Dan_at_Avista
 
Published: 12/1/2010  10:40 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post