Sep 30 , 2011
Avista and other parties in the company's electric and natural gas rate case filings have reached a settlement agreement that, if approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC), is designed to provide an additional $20.0 million, or a 4.5 percent, increase in annual electric billed revenue, and $3.75 million, or a 2.6 percent increase, in annual natural gas billed revenue. Approval of the settlement agreement would conclude the general rate requests filed on May 16, 2011, with new rates becoming effective January 1, 2012.
If the settlement is approved by the UTC, a residential customer in Washington using an average of 977 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month would see a $3.02, or 3.9 percent, per month increase for a revised monthly bill of $80.03. A residential customer using an average of 67 therms of natural gas a month would see a $1.76, or 2.8 percent, increase per month for a revised monthly bill of $64.09.
“We believe the settlement agreement is a fair and reasonable outcome for our customers and for our shareholders," said Dennis Vermillion, Avista Corp. senior vice president and president of Avista Utilities. "The agreement is the result of concessions and compromises on a number of issues to arrive at an outcome that is supported by the settling parties. It also represents continuing progress in our efforts to timely recover the costs of serving our customers.”
Avista's original request filed with the UTC in May 2011 included an electric rate increase of 8.7 percent, or $38.3 million, in increased annual electric revenues. The difference between the original request and the amount in the settlement agreement is due to several factors including a decrease in natural gas costs to run the company’s thermal plants, removal of the Electric Energy Efficiency Load adjustment, a reduction in certain operating expenses and adjustments for administrative and general expenses. The original request also included an increase in the common equity ratio and the return on equity. The specific capital structure ratios and the cost of capital components were not specified in the settlement agreement.
The settlement agreement includes deferred accounting treatment related to maintenance costs for Avista’s Coyote Springs 2 project and its share of the Colstrip 3 & 4 coal-fired projects that will address the year-to-year variability in these costs. Each year the difference between actual maintenance costs and the amount built into base retail rates would be deferred and amortized over the next four-year period. The amortization amounts would be recovered through future rate cases, as they occur.
Also included in the settlement agreement is a provision that Avista will not file a general rate case in Washington before April 1, 2012. The UTC has up to 11 months to review and issue a decision in a general rate case request.
Recognizing the impact of rising prices on customers, especially limited income and senior customers, funding available under this settlement agreement for Avista’s Low Income Rate Assistance Program (LIRAP) would increase by $370,000. The increase in funding plus a reallocation of funds from the conservation education program would result in an additional $550,000 in direct energy bill-payment assistance for limited income and senior customers. In total, annual funding available for the LIRAP program would be approximately $3.6 million for electric customers and approximately $1.8 million for natural gas customers. The LIRAP program is funded through a separate tariff.
In addition to Avista, the parties to the settlement are the staff of the UTC, the Public Counsel Section of the Washington Office of the Attorney General, Northwest Industrial Gas Users, Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities and The Energy Project. The parties’ recommendation to approve the settlement is not binding on the commission.
The Northwest Energy Coalition (NWEC), the only party to not sign the settlement agreement, has indicated that they plan to pursue approval of an electric decoupling mechanism in this case. NWEC has also indicated, however, that they do not oppose other terms of the settlement, including implementation of new retail rates effective January 1, 2012.
Avista offers a variety of energy efficiency programs for residential, limited income, commercial and industrial customers. In addition to helping customers manage their energy use, the programs also help reduce the amount of future, more costly energy resources needed to meet customer demand.
In addition to support for energy assistance programs, Avista also offers services for customers such as comfort level billing, payment arrangements and Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Services (CARES), which provide assistance to special-needs customers through referrals to area agencies and churches for help with housing, utilities, medical assistance and other needs.
Avista Corp. is an energy company involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy as well as other energy-related businesses. Avista Utilities is our operating division that provides electric service to 357,000 customers and natural gas to 317,000 customers. Our service territory covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon, with a population of 1.5 million. Avista's primary, non-regulated subsidiary is Advantage IQ. Our stock is traded under the ticker symbol "AVA." For more information about Avista, please visit www.avistacorp.com.
Avista Corp. and the Avista Corp. logo are trademarks of Avista Corporation.
This news release contains forward-looking statements regarding the company's current expectations. Forward-looking statements are all statements other than historical facts. Such statements speak only as of the date of the news release and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the company's control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations. These risks and uncertainties include, in addition to those discussed herein, all of the factors discussed in the company's Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2010 and the Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2011.
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Sep 30 , 2011
Approval also received for annual pass-through filings that will off-set bill impact to customers for a net electric decrease
News Release/Post by Debbie Simock
Avista received approval today from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) on the all-party settlement agreement, concluding the company’s electric and natural gas rate request. Avista made the requests to the IPUC on July 5, 2011 followed by an all-party settlement agreement on Aug. 26, 2011. New customer rates will become effective Oct. 1, 2011.
“We are pleased the Commission recognized the need for our rates to reflect the increased costs necessary to operate and maintain our energy system. Making the effective dates for the multiple filings coincide for October 1 means our customers will actually receive a decrease in their electric rates,” said Dennis Vermillion, Avista Corp. senior vice president and president of Avista Utilities.
The new retail rates from the settlement agreement reflect an overall 1.1 percent increase in electric base rates, providing $2.8 million in additional annual electric revenue. Base natural gas rates will increase by an overall 1.6 percent with $1.1 million in additional annual natural gas revenue.
In separate actions, the IPUC also approved annual electric and natural gas rate adjustments that pass through actual changes in expenses or credits and have no impact on company earnings. The adjustments will offset all or a portion of the bill impact of the base rate increase to customers.
A residential customer using an average 956 kilowatt-hours a month will see a $1.79 per month decrease, or 2.1 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $82.02. A residential natural gas customer using an average of 62 therms would see a $0.20 per month increase, or 0.3 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $60.96. Avista serves over 122,000 electric and more than 74,000 natural gas customers in Idaho.
The approval also includes an increase in annual funding for the Community Action Partnership Association of Idaho (CAPAI) from $40,000 to $50,000 for outreach and education activities for low income customers. This funding is in addition to the current $700,000 for low-income weatherization programs.
Information on energy assistance programs and energy efficiency rebates and incentives for customers is available at www.avistautilities.com.
Avista Corp. is an energy company involved in the production, transmission and distribution of energy as well as other energy-related businesses. Avista Utilities is our operating division that provides electric service to 357,000 customers and natural gas to 317,000 customers. Our service territory covers 30,000 square miles in eastern Washington, northern Idaho and parts of southern and eastern Oregon, with a population of 1.5 million. Avista’s primary, non-regulated subsidiary is Advantage IQ. Our stock is traded under the ticker symbol “AVA.” For more information about Avista, please visit www.avistacorp.com.
This news release contains forward-looking statements regarding the company’s current expectations. Forward-looking statements are all statements other than historical facts. Such statements speak only as of the date of the news release and are subject to a variety of risks and uncertainties, many of which are beyond the company’s control, which could cause actual results to differ materially from the expectations. These risks and uncertainties include, in addition to those discussed herein, all of the factors discussed in the company’s Annual Report on Form 10-K for the year ended Dec. 31, 2010 and the Quarterly Report on Form 10-Q for the quarter ended June 30, 2011.
Sep 20 , 2011
Post by Dan Kolbet
Chris Drake, an Avista energy efficiency expert, joined KHQ during its noon NewsBreak, a live web stream, on Monday Sept. 19. He provides some great tips for energy efficiency in the winter.
To watch the video, click on the picture to the right, select the video“6 ways to save on your electricity bill this winter.” The video is four minutes and 30 seconds long. Sorry to send you to another website to view the video, but I can’t embed the video in its current You format.
You'll click on this graphic when you get to KHQ.com:
Sep 19 , 2011
Since today we announced a new lowest price for the In-Home Energy Audits (as low as $49), I thought it would be nice to show you what these audits actually do for you and your home. Watch the video above to find out.
Sep 19 , 2011
700 Spokane County homeowners have already benefitted from energy audit
Today Avista announced a reduction in the costs for In-Home Energy Audits for Spokane County homeowners. The energy audits, which provide specific recommendations to help homeowners make informed decisions about actions they can take to help save energy, are now available for as low as $49.
I was lucky enough to be at one of the first energy audits we conducted as part of this program. You’d be surprised about the stuff the auditors find about your home and energy usage – some stuff you might not expect.
To date, nearly 700 homeowners have participated in the program. The majority of these homeowners have taken action, based on the energy audit recommendations, to make their homes more energy efficient and thus use less energy.
The cost range for the audits, $49 to $325, depends on which funding sources the homeowners are eligible to receive. Non-Avista customers can sign up for audits and are eligible for funding through their respective city or county, but are not eligible for Avista energy efficiency funds.
Residents living anywhere within the boundaries of Spokane County can visit www.avistautilities.com/savings/inhomeaudit
to watch a video about the audits, learn how much funding they qualify for and how to start the audit process.
So, why just Spokane County?
Fair question. Typically a pilot program is started on a small scale and, if successful, expanded into larger areas. Spokane County was chosen based on its size, population density and availability of trained home auditors. In addition three local Spokane based governments made federal/state stimulus funds available through their Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grants. If successful the program may be expanded throughout the Avista service area.
Sep 15 , 2011
If approved, electric rates would go down, gas would slightly go up
Last month we shared with you about the annual tariff filings we made in Idaho
.Today we made similar filings in Washington that could decrease electric rates by 2.64 percent and increase natural gas prices by an overall 0.96 percent. If our requests are approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation (UTC), new rates would become effective Nov. 1. Read the news release to learn more.
You may wonder why we’re asking to decrease electric prices in Washington when we have a request before the utility commission to increase rates. Simply put, the requests impact your bill in different ways.
Today’s request is asking the WUTC for approval to pass through to customers $9.2 million Avista is expected to receive through a Bonneville Power Administration program. If approved, you’ll receive those benefits in the form of a monthly credit on your electric bill. This is a pass-through that has no impact on company earnings.
The request we made in May
to increase electric and natural gas rates is seeking to recover significant investments Avista has made in generating and delivering energy to our customers. It’s called a general rate case, and the WUTC has up to 11 months to review and issue a decision on the request.
Rates are complicated and can be confusing. So, post a question below and we’ll get back to you with an answer about rates or on anything else you’d like to know about.
Sep 14 , 2011
Weirs are being built in the bed of the Spokane River downtown. What's a "weir" anyway?
I recently had the opportunity to visit the Aesthetic Flows Project taking place in the Spokane River’s North and Middle channels in downtown Spokane. I received special permission to step into the riverbed for the sake of capturing history in the making for Avista (I also relish opportunities to wear my hard hat).
The project is attracting a lot of attention from spectators passing by as contractors dressed in bright green T-shirts aim their large hose full of concrete-like material at oddly shaped structures formed out of rebar, which are called weirs. The manmade structures are designed to divert the water during low flow periods in a manner that is aesthetically pleasing and they are being made to match the existing river bed as closely as possible-both in color and texture. In fact, once the material has been applied, Land Expressions, our contractor has about two hours to transform the mud-like substance into natural looking weirs before they set up and become too hard to manipulate. They use tools like brushes, paint rollers, and shovels to make this happen. It’s quite impressive, a work of art really.
Typically, this stretch of the river (North and Middle Channels) doesn’t have a lot of water flowing through it during the summer months because river flows drop off after spring runoff. However, about this time next year, the water is expected to be flowing more evenly across both the North and Middle channels of the river near Canada Island with the addition of the weirs.
The work you see Avista doing isn’t just about looks, as the name suggests. It’s part of our new 50-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate our five hydroelectric facilities located on the Spokane River. 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 cut into the bedrock to divert water during dry times.
The project is expected to be completed by the end of October. Once this is done, there may not be another opportunity for me to don my hardhat in that stretch of the river for quite some time. In the slide show above, you can check out some of the recent photos of the project as it progresses.
If you have any questions about this project, please feel free to call Speed Fitzhugh, Avista’s Spokane River License Manager at, (509) 495-4998.
Sep 13 , 2011
New line will reinforce gas service to Clarkston area customers; Safety lighting along trail a welcome public benefit
Natural gas pipeline installation includes welding
sections of steel pipe together. The new line will
help reinforcegas service to Avista customers in
the Clarkston area.
Since mid-July Avista contract crews have been working on a 2.8-mile natural gas line extension in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley that will help reinforce gas service to Avista customers in the Clarkston area.
The new six-inch steel high pressure natural gas line is being installed on the Clarkston, Wash., side of the Snake River and will be fed through an existing line from Lewiston, Idaho. The project comes with several unique challenges, such as shoreline work, trenching along a popular nature trail, and accessing land managed by the Army Corp. of Engineers and Department of Transportation. Crews have also hit unexpected sections of buried rock, which slowed trenching work.
Recently Avista also had to monitor a portion of the project located underneath the Southway Bridge for cultural artifacts. An archaeologist was onsite during construction to observe the pipeline installation, but found no cultural artifacts.
Associate Gas Engineer David Smith, who is managing the project, said that 4,100 feet of pipe has been installed so far. That’s about 28 percent of the total expected length of the project.
Avista customers and area residents have expressed positive feelings about the project according the Regional Business Manager Mike Tatko who has spoken about the project at several community events.
An additional benefit of the project to customers and the public came in the form of safety lighting on the Greenbelt Trail, a popular recreation area, where the new line is being installed. In order to install the new pipeline, Avista needed to access land managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. As in-kind consideration in lieu of fees for conducting this project, Avista will install 46 lights along the trail from Chestnut Beach to Swallows Boat Ramp parking lot, at an approximate cost of $71,500. The new lights, to be installed later this year, will improve the safety of visitors who use the Greenbelt Trail.
"We are pleased to partner with the Corps to install safety lighting along the Greenbelt Trail as a part of our natural gas pipeline project," Tatko said. “Keeping funds for this project local in the form of new trail lighting is a very visible benefit to Avista customers and all area residents who use the trail."
Installation of the pipeline is expected to be complete in November.
After the line is complete, it will be pressure tested at 1.5 times its normal pressure before natural gas is allowed to flow. It’s a check to ensure the line has no leaks and is safe for use.
Sep 09 , 2011
Post by Jessie Wuerst
Low income residents of Coeur d’Alene and Lewiston, Idaho, will have improved access to healthcare, and in-home childcare providers in Spokane can better help their young charges to read thanks to recent grants from the Avista Foundation.
At the Dirne Community Health Center in Coeur d’Alene the $2,700 grant will assist in refurbishing and equipping a vehicle for use in delivering quality healthcare in locations that are easily accessible to those most in need – homeless individuals, senior citizens and low income families with children.
“Access to quality healthcare is impeded by limited transportation for a significant number of people in our community. This grant will help us overcome that barrier by delivering healthcare opportunities to those in need right where they need it,” said Mike Baker, CEO of Dirne Community Health Center. “Our new mobile clinic will allow us to serve more than 3,000 individuals per year through visits to sites such as health fairs, community centers, homeless encampments and senior meal sites.”
In Lewiston, a $1,500 grant to the Snake River Community Clinic Dental Safety Net program will provide funds for medications, supplies and administrative costs for the clinic that serves uninsured and under-insured adults primarily in eight counties of southeastern Washington and North Central Idaho.
“Our dental clinic provides vital services to those who are medically needy, many of whom are the working poor in our region. This grant will help with the costs of providing at least 220 single-tooth extractions for adults,” said Charlotte M. Ash, director of the Snake River Community Clinic. “Dental health is an essential part of a person’s overall health. Our all-volunteer staff of professionals helps us leverage these kinds of gifts to provide healthcare services to a greater number of those in need.”
A $4,000 grant to Humanities Washington in collaboration with Community-Minded Enterprises, will help fund a literacy training program for low-income child care providers in Spokane County, Wash. The grant provides funds to support training for 20 licensed, in-home childcare providers for a family reading program. In addition, funds will help provide free books for classrooms and to send home with the children in their care, as well as take-home activities to engage parents in their children’s at-home learning.
“We know that just over 50 percent of Washington’s kindergarten students enter school prepared to learn. Offering this literacy program in partnership with Humanities Washington will give us the opportunity to provide important training to care givers in our region to help them – and the children’s parents – provide reading readiness opportunities to build a solid educational foundation for each child in their care,” said Kathy Thamm, from Community-Minded Enterprises.
“We are very pleased to make these grants through our foundation. All too often health, educational and community resources are stretched beyond capacity. Avista is proud to be an active partner with these organizations to enhance these vital services in our service territory,” said Dennis Vermillion, president of Avista Utilities and member of the Board of Directors of the Avista Foundation.
Avista Corp. and Avista Foundation were recently ranked 13th in corporate and foundation giving in Washington among large companies by the Puget Sound Business Journal. The only other utility in the top 25 ranking, in terms of cash giving in 2010, was Puget Sound Energy Foundation at number 16. In 2010, Avista Corp. and Avista Foundation donated more than $1.5 million in Washington and a total of $2.27 million to non-profit organizations throughout our service territory.
Sep 08 , 2011
If you happened to be in downtown Spokane over the weekend taking part in the festivities that go along with Pig Out in the Park, you may have noticed the large crane sitting near the Monroe Street dam as well as other projects taking place in and around the Spokane River.
|Removing accumulated rock and gravel from
Monroe Street Dam forebay. Enlarge photo.
The work is part of Avista’s 50-year Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) license to operate our five hydroelectric dams on the river and will help protect the resources and operations of our dams in order to generate clean, reliable and cost-effective hydropower for our customers.
This week, we started removing accumulated rock and gravel from the forebay, (the area that pools behind the dam) at Monroe Street and are relocating the materials back into the river below the dam. This is being done because the high river flows from this spring caused large amounts of rock, gravel and other materials to accumulate at the dam. The accumulated rock can damage the intake structure where water enters the turbine, thus interrupting clean and efficient power generation.
Before we were able to begin the project, we performed a bathymetry survey which illustrates the terrain under water so we know where the material has accumulated. We also sampled and tested the materials for contaminants to determine whether or not the rock and gravel could safely be placed back into the river below the dam. The testing and analysis of the sample materials was conducted by a third-party that determined the material was safe to relocate downstream. Once the rock removal is complete, we will perform a second bathymetry survey in order to calculate the total amount of material removed from the forebay.
Other projects that are highly visible to downtown visitors include the construction of a new viewing platform at Upper Falls and the Aesthetic Flows Project in the Upper Falls’ north and south channels. Look for more information about these projects
here on the blog as they continue to progress. In the meantime, if you would like additional information about Avista’s hydroelectric projects, please contact Speed Fitzhugh, Spokane River License Manager for Avista at, 509-495-4998.
Last year we did this video that showed the relocation of rock and gravel in action. Taken Aug. 2010.