Aug 01 , 2012
Partnership formed to manage approximately 2,000 acres of Avista and DNR property around Nine Mile Dam and Lake Spokane
State Parks will now manage Avista’s Nine Mile
Recreation Area as part of its Riverside State Park
operations. We expect this to improve your recreation
experiences at this and our other facilities.
DNR’s Lake Spokane Campground, which includes
campsites, a boat launch, picnic and swimming areas,
will be open longer to extend the recreation season,
from April 15 through Oct. 15. In the future, the
campground will be also expanded as part of the
Avista owns and operates five federally-licensed hydroelectric facilities on the Spokane River – Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, Nine Mile and Long Lake. Besides generating clean, reliable hydropower, these dams provide an abundance of recreation opportunities. As part of our 50-year federal license to operate our Spokane River hydroelectric facilities, we’re committed to working with agencies in Washington and Idaho to expand, enhance and preserve recreation opportunities related to our dams.
As part of this commitment, we’ve developed multi-year plans for recreation on and around Lake Spokane, the Spokane River, and Coeur d’Alene Lake, which include the following:
• Improving existing campgrounds, boat facilities, trails, and scenic overlooks
• Developing new recreation facilities and interpretive displays
• Increasing access for individuals with disabilities
• Partnering with others to operate and maintain recreation facilities in a cost-effective and responsible manner
We’ve already started working towards these goals. Today Avista and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced a partnership
to manage approximately 2,000 acres of Avista and DNR property around Nine Mile Dam and Lake Spokane (also known as Long Lake). Read the news release.
State Parks will now manage Avista’s Nine Mile Falls and Lake Spokane Recreation areas and DNR’s Lake Spokane Campground as part of its Riverside State Park operations. This includes Nine Mile Recreation Area and our Long Lake Dam day-use area, as well as south shore trailheads during non-hunting seasons. State Parks will also manage Avista’s scenic overlooks at Long Lake and Nine Mile dams, and some of the new recreation facilities we plan to develop in 2013. These include a boat take-out above Nine Mile Dam, a boat put-in below Long Lake Dam, and 10 boat-in-only campsites on Lake Spokane.
Avista is also assisting State Parks in the management of DNR’s Lake Spokane Campground, which includes campsites, a boat launch, picnic and swimming areas. The campground and boat launch will be open longer to extend the recreation season, from April 15 through Oct. 15. In the future, the campground will be also expanded as part of the agreement.
We expect this partnership to increase and improve recreation, particularly around Lake Spokane, with services that include better security, maintenance, and ongoing upkeep. However, people recreating at these sites will now need a Discover Pass for day use, and may have to pay other state camping and boat launch fees as required. The Discover Pass fees help offset the high cost of maintaining recreation facilities for public use, and eliminate future potential fees that Avista may otherwise have to charge users of these facilities.
The good news is, for those of you who already have a Discover Pass, you’re getting a lot more for your investment in the local area. If you haven’t purchased a pass yet, doing so will help to ensure you have the best experience possible, whether you’re hiking, boating, camping, fishing, or just out for a day of picnicking and swimming. State Parks offers passes that reduce or waive camping and launch fees for limited-income senior citizens, disabled veterans, foster parents and people with disabilities. For more information, visit www.discoverpass.wa.gov
Aug 01 , 2012
A rare look inside a wind turbine.
If you’ve had the opportunity to drive on State Route 195 near Oakesdale, Wash., within the past few weeks, you may have noticed large white towers popping up like daisies.
A little unfamiliar looking without their blades, the 250-foot structures are just the first of 58 Vestas V100-1.8 megawatt (MW) wind turbines, which will dot the Naff Ridge at First Wind’s
Palouse Wind project.
Last year, Avista signed an agreement to purchase the renewable wind power generated by the proposed Palouse Wind project in Whitman County, Wash., once it comes online. In early May of this year, First Wind broke ground on Palouse Wind
. First Wind expects the project to be complete and generating power by the end of the year. Parts of the wind turbines have arrived and are being assembled and erected now.
Don’t let your view from the road deceive you, the sheer size and weight of the various wind turbine parts dictate a carefully planned delivery system of barge, rail and night-time truck hauls to avoid any traffic concerns. For example, the nacelle, which is the part that sits on top of the tower and houses all of the generating components of a wind turbine, weighs 97.5 tons. The blades, more than 160 feet in length, are scheduled to start arriving on site this month.
Tilling the ground for renewable energy and economic development
Avista is rooted in renewable energy. According to the latest report of the National Resources Defense Council, "Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States
," Avista is the 11th lowest emitter of CO2 in pounds per megawatt-hour of major electric generators in the United States and the third lowest among investor-owned utilities. With 50 percent of our net generation capability from hydroelectric and a majority of our thermal generation fueled with natural gas, plus a commitment to energy efficiency, we are one of the greenest utilities in the nation. As the demands for energy increase, it’s important to look for sustainable ways to meet those demands.
“We’ve been looking at wind power for a long time at Avista,” said Bob Lafferty, Avista’s director of power supply. “The renewable energy from Palouse Wind will be an important piece of our diverse portfolio that can help us meet our customers’ energy needs and renewable portfolio standards in Washington.”
Palouse Wind will be the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County with the capacity to generate 105 MW of energy – enough clean, renewable energy to power about 30,000 of our customers’ homes.
In addition to meeting an energy need, the location of the Palouse Wind project brings economic growth to the region as well.
“We were very fortunate to capture this renewable energy project in Whitman County, along with the increasing level of economic activity it brings,” said Dick Watters, Whitman County director for the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association (SEWEDA). “It was always our first priority. We worked very close with Palouse Wind to ensure our region’s workforce, goods and service providers, and contractors had opportunities to participate along the way.”
According to First Wind, more than 150 jobs are being created during construction, which they anticipate will result in millions of dollars invested in the Inland Northwest.
First Wind estimates that over the life of the project, $700,000 will be generated in tax revenues per year. Additionally, sales tax collected on all goods and services purchased within Whitman County related to the project will contribute to the county general fund.
“Economic development is the process of building strong, adaptive and diverse economies,” Avista’s Regional Business Manager Paul Kimmell added. “Local assets and realities, a diverse industry base, and a commitment to equality of opportunity and sustainable practices must drive these strategies. This project has emerged as one that will ensure a strong foundation for long-term stability and economic growth for Whitman County.”
At Avista, renewable energy has been at the heart of our business since 1889. With the ever-increasing demand for energy, Avista’s purchase agreement with Palouse Wind will help us serve our customers with the renewable energy you expect and depend on.
Jul 31 , 2012
Today Avista filed several requests with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission to decrease natural gas and electric prices for our customers in Idaho. If approved, natural gas prices would decrease by an overall 8 percent and electric prices by an overall 2 percent for our Idaho customers beginning Oct. 1. This would be the second natural gas price reduction for our customers in Idaho this year. Read more about these filings in the press release we just issued
Each year, we propose to adjust rates our customers pay so that customers’ bills reflect our actual costs of purchasing natural gas and generating and purchasing electric power. Today’s requested rate reductions are due to, among other things, lower natural gas prices and lower power supply costs, which is good news for our customers. Learn more about Natural gas prices.
You may recall the commission in Idaho approved our request to reduce natural gas rates by an overall 6 percent in March. If today’s requests are approved, natural gas rates will have decreased by more than 14 percent overall for Idaho customers in 2012.
Today’s requests include two electric rate adjustments and two natural gas rate adjustments:
• Avista’s annual Power Cost Adjustment (PCA)
• Avista’s annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA)
• Electric and Natural Gas Energy Efficiency Tariff Rider Adjustments (Tariff Rider)
Post Falls Dam - a hydroelectric
facility in Idaho.
The major portion of an Avista electric customer’s bill, about 60 percent, is the cost of generating or purchasing electricity to meet customer needs. These costs may fluctuate up or down. The proposed PCA rebate would pass through reduced power supply costs during the twelve-month period that ended June 30, 2012.
We also filed a request with the IPUC to reduce the electric Energy Efficiency Tariff Rider Adjustment (Tariff Rider). The Tariff Rider is the rate paid by customers that funds the company’s energy efficiency programs.
The two proposed rate decreases will be offset partially by the expiration of an existing refund rate being passed through to customers.
If today’s requests are approved by the commission, the monthly bill for a residential electric customer in Idaho using an average of 939 kilowatt-hours per month would decrease from $80.55 to $79.46, a decrease of $1.09 per month, or 1.4 percent, beginning Oct. 1.
New gas pipelines being
installed new Highway 95 in
The combined costs of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and transporting it to Avista’s system makes up about 55 percent of an Avista natural gas customer’s bill, and these costs fluctuate up and down based on market prices. Avista does not mark these costs up. Read more about this in our Avista Blog series Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 1: Wholesale Prices.
The annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) is a true-up that balances the cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista to serve customers with the amount already included in customer rates. Abundant supplies of natural gas and continued soft demand for the commodity have continued to keep wholesale natural gas prices at lower levels over the past year.
Our second natural gas rate request filed with the IPUC is to reduce the natural gas Energy Efficiency Tariff Rider Adjustment (Tariff Rider). Similar to the electric Tariff Rider for energy efficiency, the natural gas Tariff Rider is the rate paid by customers that funds the Company’s natural gas energy efficiency programs.
If our requests are approved, residential natural gas customers using an average of 60 therms a month would see a $4.42, or 7.9 percent, decrease in their monthly rate for a revised monthly bill of $51.36, beginning Oct. 1.
Jul 30 , 2012
For this year’s Settler’s Days Parade in Deer Park, Wash., Avista dressed up one of our electric line trucks with a patriotic theme to cruise the route. Our employees volunteer their time to participate in community events like this to share information about energy efficiency and safety. We love the communities we serve. Thanks for having us, Deer Park!
In the picture above you can see Deer Park Operations Manager Frank Binder; Journeyman Lineman Pat St. Amand, his wife Coleen and their two daughters Bridget and Margaret; Community Investment and Foundation Manager Kristi Meyer; and of course, Edison and our Energy Watchdog, Wattson.
Jul 30 , 2012
Don’t wait to sign up for Avista’s in-home energy audit
if you’ve been thinking about having your home checked out for as low at $49. The deadline for registering is midnight August 3 for residents in the City of Spokane and unincorporated areas of Spokane County. After that date, federal funding will end for the two-year pilot program that provides specific recommendations to help Spokane County homeowners make informed decisions about actions they can take to help save energy.
The pilot program
is a partnership with Avista, Spokane County and the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley. The three local governments support the audit program with Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds each received in 2010 from the US Department of Energy. Avista manages the in-home energy audit program and has matched funding from its program partners to help reduce the cost of the audit for Avista customers and as part of the company’s long-standing commitment to energy efficiency. Available funding for residents in the city of Spokane Valley has already been exhausted.
During the audit, certified auditors conduct a physical inspection of a home and its major appliances. The auditors also perform a series of diagnostic tests to uncover areas of heat loss or gain. Windows, doors, insulation, furnace, ducts and vents are checked as part of the comprehensive audit. Results and recommendations are provided in a written follow-up report. Homeowners also receive an energy efficiency kit with weatherization items, CFL bulbs and low-flow showerheads.
So, don’t let time run out on you for this great deal.
Jul 30 , 2012
Avista customers see benefits of natural gas abundance
You’ve probably seen the headlines: “Natural gas prices fall to 10-year low,” or “Natural gas prices continue to drop.” But are these headlines really telling the whole story, and what do they mean to you as a natural gas customer of Avista? We’ve been talking about natural gas as a cleaner, more efficient and reliable source of energy for a long time now, but what about the economics of natural gas? How do new sources of natural gas affect wholesale costs, and how does that translate to your energy bill?
The good news is if you are an Avista customer, you have been seeing the benefits of increased natural gas supply and lower prices for some time. Through rate decreases proposed by Avista and approved by state regulators, Avista customers have seen the wholesale price of natural gas decrease by more than 48 percent since 2008.
But the relationship between headline-making wholesale prices and what you see on your bill each month is not always that clear cut. Over the next few weeks through this natural gas pricing series, we’ll discuss the cost components that make up a customer’s natural gas bill and try to clear it up a bit.
Natural gas bills include wholesale gas costs, interstate pipeline transportation costs and costs for equipment and people to get the natural gas to the customer
|There are three main drivers of your natural gas
energy bill: Whole sale gas costs; fixed
transportation costs; equipment and people.
Click to see the full chart.
There are three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill:
1. The cost of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market is about 38 cents of every dollar you pay for natural gas. This cost is passed through to you without any mark-up or profit to Avista.
2. The cost to transport the natural gas on pipelines from the source or supply basins to Avista’s system is about 17 cents of every dollar you pay for natural gas. This cost is also passed through without any mark-up or profit to Avista.
3. The cost of the equipment and people it takes to safely and reliably deliver natural gas through our distribution system to your home or business is about 45 cents of every dollar you pay for natural gas. State regulators provide Avista the opportunity to earn a fair return, or profit, on the investment our shareholders have made in the facilities used to provide service to you.
You probably don’t think much about it when your gas furnace kicks on, or when you turn on your gas stove or use water that is heated with natural gas. But, like electricity, it’s taken a journey to get to you. Before we can deliver it to your home, Avista has to first purchase the natural gas and have it transported through large pipelines over long distances to our delivery system. The combined costs of purchasing and transporting natural gas to our system for delivery to you make up more than half of your natural gas bill. Avista doesn’t mark up these costs or make any money on this – customers pay what we pay.
When we purchase natural gas from the wholesale market, our goal is to secure reliable gas supply at the lowest cost so we can keep your costs as stable and low as possible.
Natural gas – grown at home
Natural gas is an abundant resource found throughout the United States and Canada. Since 2007, domestic natural gas production has increased, primarily due to the advances in natural gas drilling that have allowed production from previously untapped shale gas formations
throughout North America. The Energy Information Administration
now estimates that at today’s consumption levels there is enough natural gas to last the United States almost 100 years.
Avista is fortunate to be located near two prolific natural gas supply basins; the Western Canadian Sedimentary Basin, primarily located in Alberta and British Columbia, and the Rocky Mountain basin in Wyoming, Utah and Colorado. Not only is the North American natural gas resource base vast, the American Gas Association
describes it as “a home‐grown North American fuel whose efficient use by power plants, homes and businesses contributes to cleaner air.” Beyond the comfort and warmth it brings to our homes, natural gas is also recognized for its environmental attributes and contribution to American energy independence.
Wholesale prices are market driven
|Over the past decade, wholesale
natural gas prices have been volatile,
at times increasing sharply and then
dropping just as sharply.
Click to see full chart.
Natural gas is a commodity. Ultimately the cost is set by the market. As in most free markets, natural gas prices are primarily influenced by supply and demand. Over the past decade, wholesale natural gas prices have been volatile, at times increasing sharply and then dropping just as sharply. Factors that have contributed to the volatility of natural gas prices including supply, demand, severe weather events like Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005, and access to shale natural gas supply.
Avista’s purchasing plans provide more stability and help keep costs low
Avista wants what our customers want: an adequate supply of natural gas at affordable prices. Our goal is to strike a balance of ensuring reliable supply at competitive prices for our customers, and stabilizing natural gas prices so our customers see fewer fluctuations in their energy bills. Our employees in natural gas purchasing work every day to do this in several ways:
• We purchase natural gas from the supply basins mentioned above. These purchases are a mix of fixed price long-term, medium-term, and near-term purchases, which allow us to lock in prices for the future, and purchases on the short term market (also called the “cash” or “spot” market).
• We secure capacity rights on six large pipelines to assure delivery of supply from the supply basins to Avista’s distribution system.
• We’re part owner of Jackson Prairie, an underground storage facility in Washington State, so we can purchase natural gas and store it until we need it. We often purchase natural gas during warm‐weather months, when it traditionally costs less, and store it for delivery to our customers for use on those cold winter days.
Our natural gas purchasing plans are reviewed and revised annually to reflect evolving market conditions. Sound purchasing practices and decades of experience have helped us keep costs lower and more stable for our customers. In fact, Avista is paying some of the lowest wholesale natural gas prices among our utility peers in the region. It means our customers have some of the lowest natural gas rates in the northwest.
We’re also thinking ahead. Periodically Avista updates our 20-year outlook, which looks at how we can meet our customers’ natural gas needs over the long term, in a reliable manner at the lowest cost. We call this our Integrated Resource Plan.
We updated it in 2009, and we are currently in the process of completing our 2012 plan, which will be available at the end of the year.
As we mentioned earlier in the article, the combined costs of purchasing and transporting natural gas to our system for delivery to you can be more than half of your natural gas bill. These costs can also affect your electric bill. In our next article, “Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 2: Natural Gas Supply and Your Bill,” we’ll explain more about how, with approval by state regulators, we pass these costs directly through to customers.
Later, we’ll discuss the remaining portion of your natural gas bill. “Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 3: Natural Gas Delivery and Your Bill” will explain how your energy rates are also driven by the rising costs of the equipment and people it takes to get natural gas to your home safely and reliably.
Jul 26 , 2012
Last week, we began work at Paradise Path to
replace about 22 miles of electric lines. While
digging 22 feet into the ground, we hit bedrock,
which slowed progress down slightly. This picture
shows an auger being used to place a pole.
Bedrock makes it a tough job.
Post by Sarah Richards
We’ll have to close Paradise Path along Berman Creek Park and Styner Ave. in Moscow, Idaho for a couple extra days – July 30 – 31 – because of an unexpected turn of events. We’re in the process of replacing the power poles and wires connected to the Moscow City Substation.
Like any construction project, things can go smoothly until you hit rock, which is what happened – literally. About 22-feet into the ground, we hit bedrock. It will take some more time and effort than a normal dig to power through the solid rock, but we’ll be hard at work improving the reliability of service for our customers in the area.
It’s all part of a $7.5 million, three-year project to replace approximately 22 miles of electric transmission lines running from the Moscow City Substation south toward Lewiston.
Thank you for your patience as Avista continues to invest in our electric system so we can continue to deliver safe, reliable power to our customers.
Jul 25 , 2012
Montana Fish and Game Biologist Joe Huston and WWP biologist Tim Vaughn (right) prepare brown trout eggs for
planting in 1966, as part of ongoing efforts to improve local sport fishing.
At Avista we talk a lot about our legacy and commitment to environmental stewardship. Tim Vaughan, Washington Water Power (WWP) retiree who passed away earlier this month at the age of 95, was instrumental in helping to build that legacy at Avista. He also left a legacy of his own - the importance of relationships and a passion for nature and the outdoors.
Vaughan was a pioneer of natural resource protection, and has been recognized as the one of the first biologists in the country hired by a power company to address the impact of dams on habitat and fish and wildlife. After first working as a consultant to WWP during the construction of Cabinet Gorge Dam in the early 1950s, Vaughan used his relationship-building skills to successfully show WWP leadership the need to hire a biologist on a permanent basis. Thus began Vaughan’s 25-year career at Avista – first as a founding member of the Environmental Affairs department, and later as manager of the department.
Through partnerships with agencies such as Idaho Fish and Game, Vaughan worked to creatively and jointly reach resource-preservation goals. Bob Anderson, former director of Avista’s Environmental Affairs department and a long-time friend of Vaughan said, “Tim lived the example of respecting others and building collaborative relationships. That’s just how he was, and it set the stage for how we’ve carried out big efforts like hydro relicensing.”
Today, as we celebrate the 60th anniversary of generating power at Cabinet Gorge, Avista employees in the Environmental Affairs department work toward the same goals Vaughan envisioned long ago. Further, environmental stewardship is deeply embedded in our company culture.
Bruce Howard, director of Environmental Affairs, expects this type of respect for our environment to continue far into the future. “Tim’s legacy is now ours to carry on,” said Howard. And Avista employees will do just that.
Jul 23 , 2012
A peek at Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan for the Spokane River Project
36 years ago, our nation’s bird and symbol of freedom was placed on the endangered species list. Today, the birds are rebounding again across the country and locally.
Avista’s Terrestrial Resource Specialist, David Armes, is in charge of implementing Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan – something we are required to do as part of our federal license to operate our Spokane River Project’s five hydroelectric facilities.
Our contribution to the protection of the Bald Eagle includes annual surveys and monitoring of Bald Eagle nests located near the Spokane River Project area. This includes Coeur d’Alene Lake and its three tributaries; the Coeur d’Alene, St. Joe and St. Maries Rivers as well as the Spokane River and Lake Spokane.
While conducting surveys we look to see if the nests are occupied, evaluate the success of the nests and observe the fledging period, a time when newborn Eagles are preparing to leave the nest.
The information we gather is shared with natural resource agencies, such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. The information helps shape future efforts for protecting Bald Eagles in the area.
Avista is proud to support the conservation effort of our nation’s bird and will continue our legacy of environmental stewardship and reliability.
Jul 23 , 2012
It’s an exciting time for Avista’s Smart Grid Demonstration Project in the Pullman area.
We’ve spent the last two years building the foundation to create two-way, real-time communication between customer meters and Avista. Now that the infrastructure is in place, we’re recruiting customers to participate in Avista’s Smart Thermostat Pilot.
What’s the Smart Thermostat Pilot?
Pullman customers who meet specific criteria can volunteer to participate in the pilot and receive a free thermostat with advanced capabilities. This thermostat lets participants actively monitor and manage energy usage online and make more informed decisions about how to use energy.
As part of the study, pilot participants allow Avista to remotely adjust their smart thermostat within a range of two degrees, for a period of ten minutes to a maximum of 24 hours. This study will help us understand how to balance power supply and demand within the region.
People are signing up
Avista recently held a focus group to share information about the Smart Thermostat Pilot. At the end of the meeting, half of the attendees signed up on the spot to participate. Others wanted to participate, but couldn’t due to various personal reasons.
Why did they agree to participate? Here’s what they said:
“This totally makes sense. It’s going to enable us to monitor
our energy usage and look for ways to fine-tune things. We
don’t want to waste energy.” Cherise Lloy, First participant to
“It’s nice that the thermostat has software to get a better
handle on energy use. I’d like to use less energy.” Jim
Bonner, Smart Thermostat Pilot participant
“We’re very budget oriented and don’t want to waste. We’re
also fascinated by how the research will be used to inform
what the future holds.” Judi Dunn & Jeff Gray, Smart
Thermostat Pilot participants
“We’re so spoiled with abundant hydro-electricity. But
demand for electricity keeps growing. I’m curious to look at
my usage data. I think we have to manage electricity.”
Madeline Martin, Smart Thermostat Pilot participant
As you can see, people have different reasons for participating. Recruitment efforts are continuing as we work toward September, when Battelle NW begins testing the technology to show how the electric grid can react to sudden changes in power supply and demand.
Through studies like this, Avista can assess how smart grid technology will enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of energy delivery on a regional level and how customers and the utility will interact with new online energy usage information.