Aug 31 , 2011
 
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you know that we talk a lot about rates – it’s a topic we know is important to you. So we wanted to update you on a filing Avista made today for a slight decrease in natural gas rates for our Oregon customers.

This time of year Avista and other natural gas utilities in our region file what we call a PGA – Purchase Gas Cost Adjustment – with the public utility commissions. These required annual filings balance the cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista to serve customers with the amount included in rates.

Earlier this month we filed the annual PGA in Idaho, and we’ll be filing in mid-September in Washington. The adjustment varies by state, and depending on a number of factors it could be a decrease, increase or no change at all.

Find out more in our news release about our annual filing in Oregon today. If you have a question about rates, post a comment and we’ll be glad to get back with you.
 
 
Published: 8/31/2011  3:05 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 29 , 2011
Click to enlarge
Workers place steel anchor bolts with high strength resin into the bedrock to create a solid foundation for the weirs
during our Spokane River aesthetic flows project in downtown Spokane.
 
Post by Brandi Smith
 
Avista’s work on the aesthetic flows project in the river in downtown Spokane is getting a lot of attention from curious onlookers wondering what the project is all about. The reason behind the project isn’t just about looks as the name suggests. While the overall goal is to create a cascading waterfall effect through the channels of the Spokane River that run north and south of Canada Island, the work is related to the aesthetic spills requirement of our Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
In 2009, Avista was issued a new 50-year license by FERC to operate our five hydroelectric dams on the Spokane River (Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, Nine Mile and Long Lake). The purpose of the aesthetic flows project is to return the river’s channels to a more natural state, the way they were before early developers in Spokane cut into the bedrock to divert water during dry times.

The spray-painted dots you see on the riverbed (in the image above and to the right) are outlines for where the concrete weirs will be installed. Weirs are structures that divert water. Last year, Avista brought together several stakeholder groups, including the Washington Department of Ecology, The Sierra Club, and others, to take part in a pilot test for the project using sandbags as temporary weirs to divert the water. The feedback we received helped us determine the placement for the permanent weirs.

Our contractor is currently placing steel anchor bolts with high strength resin into the bedrock to create a solid foundation for the weirs. The weirs will be custom made to match the natural basalt bedrock as much as possible, including consideration for the existing terrain’s texture and color.

In addition to providing aesthetic attributes, the project will accommodate fish passage at various water flow levels that are determined by the Department of Fish and Wildlife and the Department of Ecology. During the project, fish biologists and contractors are on site, relocating fish safely downstream due to the river flow being temporarily stopped while the weirs are constructed.

Once the project is complete, water will flow more evenly throughout the two channels of the river and will produce a more pleasing flow of water through Riverfront Park. The project is expected to be complete by the end of October so you will most likely continue to see activity in the river channel throughout the fall.
Published: 8/29/2011  2:51 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 26 , 2011
If approved, Idaho customers will see net overall energy price reductions

Post by Dan Kolbet

Over the last few months on the Avista Blog we’ve kept you updated on rates activity in Idaho. Sometimes those filings requested increases and sometimes they requested decreases. Since we’re a regulated utility, no matter what we do, we have to ask the Idaho Public Utilities Commission for the OK – then it sets our rates. Today all those recent rate filings are coming together – the big piece being our general rate case requests for electric and natural gas customers.

When combined with other proposed rate adjustments, the results of the settlement would be a net overall decrease in electric rates of 2.4 percent and a net overall decrease in natural gas rates of 0.8 percent. If approved, new rates would become effective October 1, 2011. You can see the detailed news release on the settlement here.
 
Any day we can tell our Idaho customers that rates (if approved) are staying flat, or even going down, is a good day in Idaho. There are several separate elements that have to combine to equal a decrease, but that’s really how your rates are comprised anyway - many different parts sum up to a total.

While a few dollars a month decrease may not seem like a lot of money in your pocket, it is significant, considering the amount of work we’re doing each year. To ensure the power you expect, we’re focusing on systematically replacing or upgrading our equipment – the poles, pipe, wires, transformers, substations, equipment and generating facilities needed to safely and reliably deliver power to you. That’s why we’re investing approximately $250 million in our utility equipment (system wide) in 2011.

Another element of the settlement that is worth noting is a “stay-out” provision. This provision is such that Avista will not propose an additional general rate increase that would be effective prior to April 1, 2013. This does not preclude the company from filing annual rate adjustments such as the Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) and Purchased Gas Adjustment (PGA).”  
 
If you’d like to learn more about this settlement and what pieces came together in the end, check out our news release here: http://avistacorp.mwnewsroom.com/press-releases/avista-reaches-settlement-in-idaho-electric-and-na-nyse-ava-0792455 
Published: 8/26/2011  3:43 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 26 , 2011
Click here to learn more and enter contest

We’re pretty into energy efficient around here at Avista. It’s the lowest cost new resource for energy – energy that we don’t have to generate, buy or deliver. And it saves you energy too (kinda the point, right?)

So we’re very excited about the “Efficiency Matters Prius Giveaway,” which will help raise awareness and participation in Avista’s many energy efficiency programs. KREM 2’s Project Green, Toyota and Avista have joined forces to rally around energy efficiency. For over 30 years, we have helped customers become more energy efficient by offering tools like the online home energy analyzer, bill analyzer, the carbon calculator and providing rebates and energy tips.

Avista’s partnership with KREM 2’s Project Green and Toyota is now giving you a chance to win a Prius V Hybrid.

Here’s a quick overview of the contest. Avista customers (and viewer’s of KREM2) can enter to win a new PriusV—before you can buy it. Enter daily Aug. 22-Oct. 2, with the “watch and win” sweepstakes on KREM on the 6 p.m. newscast. You’ll get a new keyword each day that allows you to enter. The keyword is only good for that day.

Entrants can get “bonus” keywords from special events and from Avista’s Every Little Bit website. These additional keywords allow them an “extra” entry - three total for contest period.

The ten finalists will be selected by random drawing on Monday, Oct. 3. Will it be you?

Learn more about the contest, get the Official Rules and enter to win here: http://special.krem.com/winapriusv/

Learn more about Avista’s energy rebates here: http://everylittlebit.com/HouseOfRebates.aspx
Published: 8/26/2011  9:57 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 19 , 2011
Customers pay for access to many energy efficiency programs on monthly bills

Post by Dan Kolbet
CFL kit
 
Over the last few weeks thousands of lighting efficiency kits have arrived on the doorsteps of Avista’s electric customers. The first reaction I’ve heard from co-workers, friends and folks online is, “wow, thanks for the free bulbs.”

But are they really free? Let’s take a look.

The CFLs are just one part of our energy efficiency programs. The most popular energy and cost-saving measures for residential customers include purchasing Energy Star® appliances, installing high efficiency natural gas furnaces and upgrading windows and insulation. The average residential rebate for single family homes was $131. Our energy efficiency tariff rider helps us provide these all these benefits to our customers (CFLs are just a piece of it).

There are no upfront costs for CFLs because customers have already paid for them through utility commission approved energy efficiency tariff riders. These tariffs are placed on monthly bills, for the sole purpose of promoting energy efficiency. All customers pay the tariff. Avista, along with many other utilities, use these tariffs to promote energy efficiency.

Customers want to save energy and look to us to provide energy efficiency expertise, incentives and rebates to help reduce energy use and reduce the amount of future energy generation required to meet growing energy needs. And customers are certainly using rebates and incentives. Last year Avista’s three-state service territory received over 42,000 rebates and incentives totaling almost $19 million. This is enough energy savings to power over 5,700 homes for a year.

So, if you’re an electric customer, when you get your lighting kit in the mail this year, know that by installing the bulbs, you’ll be using a tool that you’ve paid for. It’s also a tool that will start paying you back through energy savings. A Washington customer using an average of 1,000 kilowatt hours per month would save $93 over the seven-year life of the bulbs. For an Idaho customer, it’s $104 saved.

All you have to do is install the lights when the kit arrives sometime between now and November.
 
Published: 8/19/2011  7:50 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 15 , 2011
Details: 1.63% natural gas increase; 2.11 percent electric decrease requested of Idaho Public Utilities Commission

Posted by Jessie Wuerst
Follow Jessie on Twitter: AvistaCares

Just three weeks ago, my co-worker Debbie Simock posted an interesting story about filings we made in Idaho requesting changes to our rates. Well, here we go again. Today we filed two additional requests for changes to rates in Idaho – a 2.11 percent decrease in electric rates and a 1.63 percent increase in natural gas rates. These are both pass throughs and have no impact on company earnings. If the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) approves these changes, they will become effective on Oct. 1. Read the news release.  

Sound familiar? There may be several changes to rates in Idaho that will become effective on Oct. 1 if the IPUC approves our requests. We’ll post the outcomes here and give you the overall change you’re likely to see on your bill.

This is just another example of what we’ve been saying for some time – Avista must file requests for any changes to our rates with the state utility commissions that regulate us. We must have their review and approval before we increase or decrease customer rates. Do you know of any other service providers who must do that? Certainly not the gas station or the supermarket. Not the airlines or the Internet carrier, either.

So, bear with us as we work through the process. We promise to keep you informed about changes to your rates as they occur. In the meantime, think about how you use energy in your home or business. Are you being as efficient as you could be? Check out the tips and rebates we have that can help at www.everylittlebit.com.
 
More info
Published: 8/15/2011  1:41 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 11 , 2011
Post by Brandi Smith
 
Click to enlarge map
Whether you’re in downtown Spokane spending the afternoon at Riverfront Park or just happen to walk through the area on your lunch hour, you will see a number of projects taking place in and around the river between Upper Falls and Monroe Street Dams this summer and fall. The work will enhance fish, wildlife, water quality, recreation and aesthetic resources in our community and meet requirements of Avista’s Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate our dams on the Spokane River.

As flows drop to summer levels, the following projects will take place in and around the river. If you are in the area, you may see temporary work structures, cranes, trucks and contractors. All equipment will be handled and operated with an emphasis on public safety and protecting the environment. For your own safety, please stay out of the riverbed and keep clear of designated work areas.

Here’s what’s on the construction schedule:

Viewing Platform Construction – Upper Falls
Construction of a new viewing platform near Avista’s Upper Falls Dam in Riverfront Park will take place this summer and fall. Avista is building the platform to access the Upper Falls Dam for maintenance. Once the work is complete, park visitors will have a permanent spot to enjoy the views of the river. This project will also improve pedestrian access and the aesthetics at Riverfront Park.

Testing flows last year
Aesthetic Flows Project – north channel, Upper Falls
The goal of Avista’s aesthetic spills project is to spread water more evenly throughout the two channels of the Spokane River that run north and south of Canada Island and produce an aesthetically pleasing flow of water that viewers can enjoy throughout the year. To do this, we’ll modify the river’s channel in order to return it to a more natural state, the way it was before early developers in Spokane cut into the bedrock to collect water during dry times. This project Last year, Avista brought together several stakeholder groups, including the Washington Department of Ecology, The Sierra Club, and others, to take part in a pilot test for this project. Immediately before and during construction, Avista will not release flows into the channels to the north and south of Canada Island.

Monroe Street Dam rock removal
Generating clean, efficient power is a top priority at Avista. The high river flows this spring have caused large amounts of rocks, gravel and other materials to accumulate at the Monroe Street Dam. The excess debris can damage the intake structure and interfere with power production.

In September, the accumulated rocks and gravel will be removed from the forebay. Depending on the analysis of sampled material, the materials will then be placed back into the river below the dam. Usually this activity is done every two years, however, because of heavy water flows this year, Avista will be performing the work again this fall.
 
Fishery work
While fishery work may not be as visible as other activities, biologists will be doing work throughout the summer and fall in the Upper Falls and Nine Mile Reservoirs. The majority of the work this fall will involve a study to determine the population of fish in this area of the Spokane River.

In 2011, Avista will plant 6,000 catchable, sterile rainbow trout in Upper Falls Reservoir and 9,000 fish in Nine Mile Reservoir. This stocking program is intended to provide families in our community the opportunity to fish.

Stay tuned for more information about these exciting projects throughout the summer and fall. Avista has also posted signs near the project areas to educate those who pass by about what we’re doing.
Published: 8/11/2011  4:35 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 11 , 2011
A little humor about an extremely serious safety topic
 
Post by Dan Kolbet
811
 
Today is 8/11 – the perfect day for all of us to remember to call 811 two days before we dig to locate underground utilities. In honor of the occasion and your safety, I’ve come up with the Top Ten reason’s people don’t call 811.

10. My phone’s “8” key fell off.

9.  Those spray painted lines on my grass really clash with my house paint.

8. I want to get on the news for causing a power outage or gas leak in my neighborhood.

7. I think I know where the lines are . . .

6. My life and the safety of my family isn’t a top priority at the moment.

5. “Two working days!” But I only do stuff at the last minute!

4. I’ll just find them thar lines when I start diggin’.

3. The dog has been digging holes all over my yard for years and has never hit anything.

2. I’m not good at “numbers.”

1. I just can’t handle free stuff. If it’s free, it’s just not worth it.

Calling 811 two days before you dig isn’t only smart, it’s the law. Please keep this in mind today and carry the festive spirit of 811 day with you all year long.

Total honesty here, I stole the “Top Ten” idea from Eric Isaacson at Colorado Springs Utilities – who actually stole it from Dave Letterman anyway, so it’s all good. It’s worth noting that I stole the idea, and only a little of the content of the list!
 
Published: 8/11/2011  10:32 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 09 , 2011
I be sending you landlubbers to Davey Jones’ Locker if ye scallywags don’t call 811 two days before you dig. Arg!

811
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
If you’re like me, when I think of 811, the first thing that comes to mind is PIRATES! Alright, maybe not the first thing, but after watching this video concerning 811, call before you dig safety and kids, you might think of pirates too.

After watching the video, feel free to say, “Arg,” “Shiver me timbers,” or “I be sending you landlubbers to Davey Jones’ Locker if ye Scallywags don’t call 811 two days before you dig.”

Seriously, it’s OK to talk like a pirate, nobody will care.
 
811 Pirate Video

This video was created by www.call811.com and the Common Ground Alliance.
Published: 8/9/2011  10:58 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 09 , 2011
Home owners and contractors are reminded to call 811 at least two days before digging

Post by Dan Kolbet
 
Gas crew fixing a broken line.
I bet these guys called before they dug. Learn from them!
#Call811 - that's it.
This week would really, really be the wrong week to dig into an underground utility line. OK, any day is bad, but this week would be exceptionally bad. Thursday is Aug. 11 – or 8/11. Sounds a bit like “811,” right? And of course you know you can call 811 for free two days before you plan to dig to locate underground utilities. Play it safe and call before you dig. It’s the law.

To help get the word out, Avista is partnering with local Home Depot stores on Thursday, Aug. 11, to raise awareness for 811, the one-call number for locating underground utilities. It’s the perfect day to remind homeowners and contractors to call 811 at least two days before digging. All are welcome to join Avista at Home Depot stores in Spokane, Spokane Valley and Phoenix, Ore.

Avista employees will be staffing booths where customers can learn more about the free 811 service and why it’s important to call before you dig. Customers can also enter to win a $25 Avista Housewarming Gift Certificate or other promotional items.

Striking underground utilities is dangerous and can be costly. In 2010 Avista’s underground natural gas and electric lines were hit by third-parties 480 times. Calling 811 at least two working days before excavating or digging begins allows sufficient time for a professional to mark the location of any buried wires, cables or natural gas pipes.

Event Information

Who:  Avista Utilities & Home Depot

What: 811 Call Before You Dig Awareness Events

Where:  Home Depot Stores
North Spokane  
9116 N. Newport Hwy
10-2 p.m.
Spokane Valley
5617 E. Sprague Ave.
10-2 p.m. 
Phoenix, Ore.
3345 N Phoenix Rd.
10-4 p.m.
 
 
Published: 8/9/2011  9:01 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post