Oct 01 , 2012
Avista graphic
 
If you’re an Avista customer in Idaho, we’ve got good news for you just in time for the cooler months of fall and winter. Beginning today and through the winter months, depending on your energy usage, you’ll see lower electric and natural gas rates. That’s because last week the Idaho Public Utilities Commission approved several rate decrease requests we filed in July.

Rates for our natural gas customers in Idaho have decreased twice this year because of lower wholesale prices. Overall, natural gas rates have dropped by almost 12 percent in 2012.

Today’s decreases are mostly because of lower natural gas prices and lower power supply costs. You might remember we reduced natural gas rates for Idaho customers in March by 6 percent. Like then, abundant supplies of natural gas and lower demand have continued to push wholesale natural gas prices downward. That’s good news. Why? Because we pass those savings directly through to you. The cost of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market is around 40 percent of your bill, so it makes a difference.

The same can be said for electricity. About 60 cents of every dollar you pay for electricity goes towards generating or purchasing the energy itself. So when power supply costs are lower, it means your bill is a little lower. And every little bit adds up.

Starting today, if you use an average of 939 kilowatt-hours per month, you’ll see your electricity bill decrease $1.09 per month to $79.46. If you are a natural gas customer using an average of 60 therms a month, you will see your bill decrease $3.23 to $52.55 per month. 
 
To learn about more ways to save on your energy bill visit www.everylittlebit.com.
 

 
Published: 10/1/2012  4:32 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 25 , 2012
What are public hearings on rates all about?

You may have heard about public hearings for Avista’s current Washington general rate request, which will take place this week in Spokane and Spokane Valley. If you are a Washington customer of Avista, you’ve also received a notice in your bill about the hearings.

These hearings, scheduled by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, are part of the normal general rate case process. Customers can comment on the current request either at the hearings, by mail or online, and we encourage our customers to participate in the process.

The first hearing is scheduled on Sept. 27, from 6-7:30 p.m. in the City of Spokane Council Chambers, 808 W. Spokane Falls Blvd., Spokane. A second hearing is scheduled on Sept. 28, from noon to 1:30 p.m. in the City of Spokane Valley Council Chambers, 11707 E. Sprague Ave., Spokane Valley.

If you can’t make a hearing or prefer to submit your comment in writing, you can do so by writing to: WA UTC / P.O. Box 47250, Olympia, WA, 98504-7250, or comment online at www.utc.wa.gov/comment.

Avista filed a request with the Commission on April 2, 2012, seeking to recover costs for investments in upgrading infrastructure to assure the ongoing delivery of reliable energy, along with rising operating and maintenance expenses. Read more about our request in our April Blog post.

If you’ve also heard about requests we’ve made to decrease rates and you want more information, please read our previous blog posts.

 
Published: 9/25/2012  9:24 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 17 , 2012
So, there's a gas decrease request and a request for an increase and a . . . well, it's confusing at times. Let us explain.
 
 
WA gas rate breakdown.
Question for the day: Have you ever thought about what makes up your natural gas bill?

Other than looking at how much our monthly bill is and maybe how much energy we used the last month, most of us don’t give it a thought.

As an Avista customer, every dollar you pay for natural gas service on average is made up of three different components – the wholesale cost of the natural gas used (41 cents), the cost for transporting that gas from the producer to Avista’s distribution system (13 cents), and the cost for the people, equipment and services needed to deliver that gas to your home (46 cents).

Last Thursday, we asked the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to allow Avista to decrease natural gas rates for the second time this year by an additional overall 4.4 percent because wholesale natural gas prices continue to decline. You can read more about the request in the news release.

If our request is approved by the UTC, the new lower rates would be effective Nov. 1, making Washington residential natural gas rates over 11 percent lower than at the beginning of this year. This requested decrease is in the wholesale cost of gas (41 cents) and fixed transportation (13 cents) portions of your bill.

If you’re a Washington customer, you may have seen an insert in your August energy bill that provides information on a different Avista rate request called a general rate case.  That request was made last April to increase both electric and natural gas rates. So, why are we asking to decrease and increase natural gas rates at the same time?

The natural gas portion of the general rate case is for the delivery portion (46 cents) of your bill – the people, equipment and services needed to safely and reliably deliver natural gas to you. The request to increase natural gas rates by an overall 5.9 percent is to recover increasing costs to operate and maintain the natural gas system. The UTC has up to 11 months from when the request was made to review and issue a decision.

Rates are complex and can be confusing, so we have a short video that gives more information on the general rate case process. Information on Avista’s general rate case, including upcoming public hearings, is available in the Notice of Request for Rate Increase brochure that was in your August Avista bill. If you missed the insert click this link to check it out.
Published: 9/17/2012  4:02 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 13 , 2012
United Way
 
Post by Brandi Smith

Today, the Avista employee United Way fundraising campaign in Spokane County began with a Day of Caring event at the West Central Community Center. More than 40 employees generously volunteered their time to hand out food to members of our community at mobile food bank hosted by Second Harvest – a United Way donation recipient.

In Spokane County it is estimated that nearly 14 percent of people are living under the poverty level. Organizations like the United Way contribute by helping children gain the skills they need to succeed in school and life, helping families and individuals become financially stable and independent, and helping people achieve physical, mental and emotional health.

Our employees have given generously to United Way. Last year employees gave $216,000 and our goal this year is to raise the bar and give $260,000.
 
Published: 9/13/2012  4:30 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 13 , 2012
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
Avista's Jen and Cindy at a local veterans event.
Jen Boettcher and Cindy Rogers, from Avista’s Human Resources department attended the second annual “Welcome Home Event” for area veterans and transitioning military members on past this Wednesday at Spokane Community College. The event was organized by VA Medical Center staff and had over 60 employers and vets service organizations registered.

Spokane Mayor David Condon opened the event and wounded warrior Chris Carver gave an inspiring speech on the obstacles he has overcome after an IED explosion in Iraq nearly took his life. The job fair was attended by 75 Spokane-area hometown heroes.

Is there is hometown hero in your life?
 
Avista will also be hosting an event for veterans at Gonzaga University in October. We'll post information about that event when it becomes available.
Published: 9/13/2012  3:48 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 13 , 2012
If approved, new rates would go down 4.4 percent – or 11 percent when combined with March decrease
 
Natural Gas Pricing 101
Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 1
Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 2
Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 3
Post by Debbie Simock

Good news if you’re a natural gas customer in Washington – your rates could go down for the second time this year thanks to lower wholesale natural gas prices.

We filed a request today asking to reduce natural gas rates in Washington by an overall 4.4 percent. That’s in addition to a 6.4 decrease that was effective March 1 of this year. If the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approves our latest request, beginning Nov. 1 residential rates would be over 11 percent lower than at the beginning of this year. You can read more about our request and the drivers in today’s news release.

Want to know more?
Check out our special thee-part Avista blog series that helps explain the sometimes confusing nature of natural gas pricing and find out about the three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill – wholesale gas costs, fixed transportation costs, and equipment and people.
Published: 9/13/2012  2:38 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 12 , 2012
Monroe Street Dam
Visitors to the area near Monroe Street Dam will see a crane relocating rock, gravel and sediment that
has accumulated at Monroe Street Dam in downtown Spokane.
 
Periodic maintenance of the dam helps ensure safe and efficient hydropower
 
 
This week, Avista has begun removing and relocating rock, gravel and sediment that has accumulated at Monroe Street Dam in downtown Spokane, in accordance with state permits.

Scuba divers at Monroe Street Dam intake gates
After a crane operator dredges the Monroe Street
Dam forebay, we contract with a professional diver
to go down to the base of the dam to remove
accumulated material that the crane can’t get.

Click on the video above to see underwater
footage of an Associated Underwater Services
(AUS) diver removing material from the intake
gate. The footage is courtesy of AUS.
High and extended river flows earlier this spring caused large amounts of rocks, gravel and other materials to accumulate at the dam. When rocks and other materials pile up in front of the dam, they block the intake structure, which lowers our generating capacity. This periodic maintenance of the dam prevents damage to the intake structure and allows us to maintain power production.

Over the next two to three weeks, a crane located near the southern part of the dam will collect the accumulated materials from the forebay, the area immediately upstream of the dam, and then place them back into the river below the dam.

“Public safety and protecting the surrounding environment are Avista’s top priorities as we do this work,” said Speed Fitzhugh, Spokane River license manager for Avista. “Redistributing the materials back into the river will allow them to continue to serve as a potential gravel source for spawning habitat in the lower Spokane River.”

Visitors should keep clear of the crane, which will be fenced in for safety reasons. For your safety, please stay out of the river in this area and keep clear of designated work areas.

About Monroe Street Dam
Avista's first hydroelectric development, Monroe Street Dam has been producing power since 1890 – longer than any other hydroelectric development currently in operation in the state of Washington.

Avista, then Washington Water Power, constructed the dam at a natural waterfall at Spokane's Lower Falls. The dam was rebuilt in 1974, and a new underground powerhouse was built in 1992. Since Monroe Street Dam is a low head concrete gravity dam designed and built to provide aesthetically pleasing flows, it doesn’t have spill gates that allow for rocks and other natural materials to pass through. Since the reconstruction in the 1970s, Avista has periodically removed and relocated natural materials about every two years to ensure the plant is generating power safely and efficiently.
 
After a crane operator dredges the Monroe Street Dam forebay, we contract with a professional diver to go down to the base of the dam to remove accumulated material that the crane can’t get.
 
Click on the video above to see underwater footage of an Associated Underwater Services (AUS) diver removing material from the intake gate. The footage is courtesy of AUS.
 
Published: 9/12/2012  4:35 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 10 , 2012
 
Join us at the energy fair in Lewiston.
The Avista Energy Fair will be in Lewiston, Idaho
tomorrow at the Lewiston Community Center from
3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Hope to see you there.
The Avista Energy Fair will be in Lewiston, Idaho tomorrow at the Lewiston Community Center from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. It will offer demonstrations of ways to keep homes warm and safe for the winter ahead. Fair attendees can speak with Avista staff and learn first-hand about low-cost and no-cost energy efficiency tips. They’ll see how to install window draft stoppers like rope caulk, window plastic and v-seal. Free samples of these and other materials to help people maximize energy efficiency in their homes will be given out at the fair.
 
In addition, Avista employees will have information about billing assistance and payment options. Avista community partners will also be on hand to offer helpful information about other community resources.
 
For the kids, and the kids at heart, Wattson, Avista’s Energy Watchdog, will be on hand to share his message of energy efficiency and safety.
 
Wattson, Avista's Energy Dog
Each year our customers ask for help in managing their energy use and costs during the winter. It’s never too early in the year for us to offer a broad range of ideas and demonstrations that will help residents keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside their homes. This event provides a great way for customers to conveniently access Avista’s many services. Information about payment options, energy assistance and energy efficiency will be especially helpful to those struggling to pay their bills.
 
Energy Fair Details
Tuesday, September 11
3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Lewiston Community Center
1424 Main St., Lewiston, ID
 
Price = Free

 
Published: 9/10/2012  10:11 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 05 , 2012
Cooper wire, used in electrical grid as ground wire.
Copper wire similar to this coil, was stolen from a
North Spokane substation, causing a 1.5 hour
power outage for roughly 3,600 Avista customers
Post by Dan Kolbet

This morning’s one hour and 30 minute power outage that impacted roughly 3,600 North Spokane customers was caused by copper theft at a substation near Spokane Falls Community College. Thieves stole copper from the substation and also damaged communications equipment.

The theft was not the first time this year that thieves targeted Avista substations in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area. Copper is traditionally used by utilities to ground the electrical equipment in substations that help deliver customers’ power. Thieves tend to snip the copper ground wires that help the electrical system maintain an even electrical voltage and complete the electrical circuit.

The outage occurred around 7 a.m. this morning, a time when customers begin to use more power as the morning progresses. The substation was forced offline, causing the outage. Avista rerouted power through additional substations nearby, to get power restored to customers quickly.

While all customers are back in service now, the substation remained offline throughout the day as repairs were made.

Copper theft is a serious crime that endangers the general public, Avista employees and of course the thieves themselves.

Avista was instrumental in passing a 2007 Washington state law making it harder to sell metals without proper documentation. The law requires that buyers of scrap metal help law enforcement identify sellers of illegally obtained metal.  (RCW 19.290).

Also read
Avista Blog, December 12, 2012: North Idaho copper thief cheats death
 
Published: 9/5/2012  2:38 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 04 , 2012
A week-long search finally uncovers who the Good Samaritan employee actually was
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

Trevor Butler
Journeyman Gas Serviceman Trevor Butler made a
big impact on a family after helping an elderly
woman who had fallen near her home in North
Spokane.
With hundreds of employees working every hour of every day throughout our 3-state service territory, our employees see a lot in the field. They see car accidents and help injured motorists. They see lost children and help return them home. They administer first aid. It’s just the right thing to do.

When an Avista employee sees someone who needs help, they offer it without question. Sometimes they go about their good deeds so quickly that the recipient doesn’t get a chance to learn the employee’s name, which is exactly what happened last week in Spokane. 

Andie Davis of Deer Park sent us a message on Facebook about an Avista employee who helped her mom Connie Davis. The trouble was, we couldn’t immediately figure out who the employee was. Here’s what she wrote:

“I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you a little story about a gentleman who works for Avista in the Spokane area, but I first need to give you a little background.

My mom is a cancer patient, with stage 4 cancer. It's a very aggressive variety of cancer; she will be on chemo the rest of her life. With that she has had complications with the chemo, and it has affected her ability to do just about anything. Her balance, dexterity, energy, mobility, breathing and memory have all been affected. The purpose for me sharing this is this, because many of these issues came into play yesterday.

My mom was watering her flowers, while using her walker on her front porch. One of your Avista trucks happened to be parked nearby, while the driver was tending to his paperwork. My mom fell, (her walker rolled down the ramp and got away from her) and couldn't get back up. After a couple attempts trying to get up, your driver had made it to her house and helped her recover her walker and back into her house. LUCKILY her worst injury was a scuff to her knee and bruised pride. She maintained good humor as they both joked about "I've fallen and can't get up" BUT if your employee hadn't helped her, who knows how long she would've been stuck outside in the 90+ degree weather before anyone would've noticed her. She didn't get his name or I'd try to thank him personally. It's nice to know that there are still kind people out there who will help those who cannot help themselves. I wish I could tell this man thank you myself, though I know it's not very likely we will ever find out who he was. . . . This guy deserves an extra day off, a hug and some ice cream! Not only did he help someone in need, he made your company look good, and those are the guys your company needs in the age of distrust for large corporations. THANK YOU for hiring this man, so he could be where someone really needed his help.”

I immediately forwarded Andie’s message to several Avista managers to try and figure out who this terrific employee was. No luck after days. Although I did hear additional stories about helping out young kids and even helping another woman in a similar situation get to her feet. It showed me, more than anything, that these types of good deeds happen all the time and we simply don’t talk about them. I know a lot of my co-workers shy away from the spotlight and aren’t looking for a pat on the back, but in this case, it was deserved and everyone who read Andie’s note really wanted to find this guy.

After about a week of searching I got a call from a manager in our natural gas area who said he found our hero. It was Journeyman Gas Serviceman Trevor Butler. A couple of his co-workers came forward to say who did the good deed. He didn’t even want to come forward himself.

When told of the thank you he received, ever-so-humble Trevor just said it was the right thing to do. No less. No more.

There’s a lot more to being an employee of Avista than just punching the clock, we have a responsibility for our neighbors too. I’m certainly proud to work here with people like Trevor, who make the communities we serve better by just doing the right thing. 

To Trevor, I think Andie said it best, but once again, thank you for what you did to help Connie. You’ve made your co-workers very proud. 
Published: 9/4/2012  10:25 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post