Nov 01 , 2012

If you’re an Avista natural gas customer in Oregon, your natural gas rates are lower starting today – good news for the coming winter months. That’s because the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC) approved our request to reduce natural gas rates in Oregon by an overall 8.2 percent. See the ad we ran in local newspapers.

Today’s decreases are mostly because of lower natural gas prices. Abundant supplies of natural gas and lower demand have continued to push wholesale natural gas prices downward.

Oregon therm chart
You have been seeing the benefits of increased natural gas supply and lower prices for some time. The costs of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and transporting it to our delivery pipelines makes up more than half of your natural gas bill, and these costs fluctuate up and down based on market prices. We do not mark these costs up. We pass them directly through to you through Purchased Gas Cost Adjustments, or PGAs, such as this one.

You will see two separate rate adjustments as a result of this PGA. If you are a residential customer using approximately 47 therms a month, you can expect your bill to decrease by $4.78 for a revised monthly bill of $57.22 beginning today. Other customer groups can also expect decreases in a similar range.

You will see an additional decrease of $0.50, beginning Jan. 1, 2013, for a total decrease of $5.28, and a revised monthly bill of $56.72. This is related to Avista’s purchase of the Klamath Falls Lateral, a 15-mile, 6-inch transmission pipeline that interconnects with Gas Transmission Northwest to transport gas to our customers in Klamath Falls. We expect this purchase to save customers approximately $1 million annually beginning in January 2013.

Did you know, if you’re an Oregon natural gas customer, your rates are at levels similar to those from 2004, and even less when you adjust for inflation?  This is mostly because of the declining prices of natural gas on the wholesale market.

Read more about natural gas pricing in our thee-part Avista blog series that helps explain the three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill – wholesale gas costs, fixed transportation costs, and equipment and people.
Published: 11/1/2012  11:38 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 01 , 2012
New, lower rates start today

If you’re an Avista natural gas customer in Washington, we’ve got good news for you as we head into the colder months of fall and winter. Beginning today and through the rest of the year, depending on your energy usage, you’ll see lower natural gas rates. That’s because last week, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved our Sept. 13 request to reduce natural gas rates in Washington by an overall 4.4 percent.

Rates for our natural gas customers in Washington and Idaho have decreased twice this year because of lower wholesale prices. Overall, natural gas rates in Washington have dropped by about 11 percent in 2012.

Today’s decreases are mostly because of lower natural gas prices. You might remember we reduced natural gas rates for Washington customers in March by 6.4 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 through Purchased Gas Cost Adjustments, or PGAs, such as this one.

The combined costs of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and having it transported to our distribution system for delivery to you is about 55 percent of your natural gas bill – or 55 cents of every dollar you pay for natural gas.

With the new rates, if you’re a residential customer in Washington using an average of 68 therms per month, you’ll see a decrease of $2.58 starting today, for a revised monthly bill of $58.18. 

Natural gas work in Spokane Valley
If you’re a commercial customer, you can expect decreases of 5.1 percent for large general service schedule 111, 5.7 percent for extra large general service schedule 121 and 8.0 percent for interruptible sales service schedule 131.

What about rate increases?
Wondering how this decrease is related to news you’ve heard about upcoming rate increases? Recently, Avista announced a settlement with various parties in our general rate case in Washington. The settlement, if approved by the commission, would increase electric rates by 2.0%, and natural gas rates by 3.6% beginning Jan. 1, 2013.  This natural gas rate change in the settlement is related to owning and operating the natural gas system, and is separate from the cost of the natural gas itself.

Even if proposed rate increases are approved and take effect in January, your natural gas rates at the beginning of 2013 will still be well below where they were at the beginning of 2012.

The good news is our customers have been seeing the benefits of increased natural gas supply and lower prices for some time. In fact, Avista pays some of the lowest wholesale natural gas prices among our utility peers in the region. It means our customers continue to have some of the lowest natural gas rates in the country.

Did you know if you’re a Washington natural gas customer, your rates are at levels similar to those from 2003, and even less when you adjust for inflation? This is mostly because of the declining prices of natural gas on the wholesale market. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, natural gas rates in both Idaho and Washington have stayed fairly level over the past 50 years.

Read more about natural gas pricing in our thee-part Avista blog series that helps explain the three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill – wholesale gas costs, fixed transportation costs, and equipment and people.
 

 
 
Published: 11/1/2012  9:39 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 31 , 2012
Historic photos
 

As a company with nearly 125 years of service in our local communities, our stories are intertwined with those of the history of the Inland Northwest – some of which we’ll be sharing with about 1,500 visitors in Spokane beginning today for the National Trust for Historic Preservation annual conference.

The National Trust is a private, non-profit organization chartered by Congress to help protect America’s historic places. The group chose Spokane as this year’s conference location as a way to look beyond their traditional borders, and recognize Spokane’s national reputation for cultural and historic preservation.

“Spokane is a western U.S. city that has a good reputation for historic preservation,” said Bruce Howard, Avista’s director of environmental affairs. “If you look at downtown Spokane, it has a historic feel because buildings like the Davenport Hotel, Steam Plant Square and a number of others were renovated and saved … and we’ve taken care of our facilities too.”

“Spokane is rich in cultural context not only with building and structures, but also Native American history, traditional cultural places and resources,” added Toni Pessemier, Avista’s American Indian relations advisor.

Avista’s history of helping protect, preserve and manage important historic, cultural, and scenic properties in our region associated with the operation of our facilities made us a natural partner in helping to sponsor the conference.
 
Avista facilities and their stories will be featured in several conference field sessions, including our award-winning Mission Campus – an example of Mid-Century Modern architecture. Other facilities include:

• Steam Plant Square and its preservation story
• Post Street Substation
• Long Lake and Upper Falls Hydroelectric stations

Avista employees have been directly involved as both volunteers and Avista staff.

“This conference puts a national spotlight on Spokane and the Inland Northwest,” said Paul Mann, member of the Board of Advisors of the National Trust for Historic Preservation and co-chair of the conference. “Since Avista's history is completely interwoven with the development of this region, it is fitting that the company has taken a leadership role in making this conference a success.”

The annual conference will run through Nov. 3. For more information about the conference, check out the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s website.
 
Did you know?
The Washington Water Power Company (now Avista) was organized in Spokane Falls, as the city was then known, on March 13, 1889, eight months before the Washington Territory was admitted to the union as Washington state.
 
Follow conference attendees on Twitter
Use the hashtag #PresConf or follow the National Trust's twitter accounts at @PresNation and @PresNationLive
 
Published: 10/31/2012  2:33 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 24 , 2012

YMCA Board Vice Chair Deena Manning (left) and Executive
Director Kevin Clark (right) receive the energy efficiency
incentive check from Steve Vincent, Avista’s economic
development manager for Oregon, and his helper, daughter
Amanda.
Swimmers enjoying the YMCA pool in Grants Pass, Oregon, will notice less humidity in the air thanks in part to almost $78,000 the organization received yesterday in energy efficiency incentives from Avista toward the complete cost of the project.

The energy savings from the new high efficiency dehumidification and ventilation system for the pool area is expected to save the YMCA almost $23,000 per year in energy costs because of using less natural gas than the old system. It does that by pulling warm moist air from the pool area making the air drier and returning the heat to the boiler system to warm the pool water.

The result - the YMCA is expected to use almost 26,000 therms a year less with the new system. That’s enough natural gas to provide service to 43 Oregon homes for a year.

Find out how you too can save energy and dollars whether you are a residential or business customer.
 
Published: 10/24/2012  9:32 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 22 , 2012

Settlement provides more certainty for you to manage your energy costs over the next two years

Post by Anna Scarlett

Today we announced a settlement agreement with several parties on the electric and natural gas general rate requests we filed back in April. The settlement, if approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), would mean a modest two-phase rate increase in electric and natural gas rates. The first would take effect Jan. 1, 2013 and the second on Jan. 1 of 2014.

Better yet, we’ve agreed not to request additional general rate increases that would take effect before Jan. 1 of 2015. This doesn’t mean we wouldn’t adjust rates based on wholesale natural gas costs before then (remember, that’s a separate part of your bill). For more information about how we adjust those costs, read our Natural Gas Pricing 101 series.

But what it does mean is that you’ll have more certainty in your energy rates for the next two years, so you can better plan to manage your energy costs. And your energy prices will still be among the lowest in the nation.

The bottom line

If the commission approves the settlement and you are an Avista electric customer, you would see two separate rate increases:

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, if you use an average of 989 kilowatt hours a month, you would see an increase of $1.20 per month, which equates to about 4 cents a day, for a revised bill of $78.69.

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, if you use an average of 989 kilowatt hours a month, you would see an additional increase of $1.60 per month, or about 5 cents a day, for a revised bill of $80.29.

Here’s how the changes, if approved, would affect you as a natural gas customer:

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the first 70 therms of your bill would actually cost a little less. This means an average monthly bill for 68 therms would decrease by about 38 cents to $60.37. For every therm you use over 70, you would see an increase of about 10 cents per month. So, if your usage is less than 70 therms a month, through energy efficiency efforts, for example, you will really see the benefit of this change.

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, if you use an average of 68 therms a month, you would see an increase of 57 cents a month, or about 2 cents a day, for a revised monthly bill of $60.94.

The settlement and what’s next

You may be wondering what a rate case settlement agreement is and how it all works. When Avista files a request to increase rates, it goes through a process much like a legal proceeding. Parties representing various groups including residential, small-business, low-income, and natural gas industrial customers, take part and submit testimony and proposals on behalf of their groups.

The commission oversees this process, and is charged with setting rates that are fair, just, and reasonable for customers, while allowing Avista the opportunity to earn a fair return on the investment shareholders make so we can continue delivering safe, reliable energy. When we can reach an agreement like this one, it saves time and the cost of a fully litigated rate case. It is ultimately up to the commission to approve the request.

In addition to Avista, the parties to the proposed settlement are the Staff of the WUTC, Northwest Industrial Gas Users, Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities and The Energy Project, a low-income customer advocacy group. The Public Counsel Section of the Washington Office of the Attorney General and the Northwest Energy Coalition did not join in the Settlement Agreement. The WUTC sets the schedule for next steps, which include hearing testimony from the parties. For more information, see the WUTC website.

Here are a couple of other resources about how energy rates are set that you might find helpful.

WUTC video: What’s Up (and Down) with Energy Rates?

Avista Rates and Pricing: What’s Driving the Cost of Energy?

Published: 10/22/2012  8:05 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 16 , 2012
Photos
 
Visit to Avista’s Pre-Apprentice Line School a part of Careers In Energy Week

Post by Dan Kolbet

This week Avista is participating in national Careers in Energy Week, focusing on informing the public of the great careers we have in the energy industry.

Today high school counselors and teachers experienced life as an apprentice at the Jack Stewart Training Center, Avista’s Pre-Apprentice Line School. More than 20 participants learned how electric crews place ground wires on poles, position cross arms and place poles in the ground.

Avista didn’t let them just stand around either – they did the actual work with shovels, power drills, hammers and ropes. Due to some unfriendly high winds, rookies weren’t able to climb a pole, but there were several who were interested.

Almost half of today’s energy workforce will be retiring in the next decade. As technology within the industry quickly increases, so does the need for a tech-savvy workforce to support high-skill, high-wage jobs. The right education and training will provide men and women a rewarding, well-paying career that benefits millions of people every day.
 
 
Published: 10/16/2012  4:20 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 15 , 2012
Careers In Energy Week
 
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
Avista is participating in national Careers in Energy Week, focusing on informing the public of the great careers we have in the energy industry. There will be a variety of events for Boy Scouts, Girl Scouts, student, high school counselor and technical education instructors, job seekers, veteran’s and others.

Almost half of today’s energy workforce will be retiring in the next decade. As technology within the industry quickly increases, so does the need for a tech-savvy workforce to support high-skill, high-wage jobs. The right education and training will provide men and women a rewarding, well-paying career that benefits millions of people every day. 

Governor Gregoire, the Spokane County Commissioners and City of Spokane Mayor David Condon have signed proclamations to support the awareness of energy careers.

Events for the week include:

Oct. 15: Newport School District and dam tour:  High school students, parents and teachers will attend an energizing assembly and will tour the Box Canyon Dam – to celebrate National Public Power Week (Oct. 8 – 12, 2012) and Careers in Energy. 

Oct. 16: Avista Line School:  High school counselors and teachers will experience life as an apprentice at the Jack Stewart Training Center in Spokane, Wash. Credit hours will be available. RSVP’s to Robyn Swanson (RSwanson@greaterspokane.org)

Oct. 17: Spokane CC and Gonzaga University:  This after school event will invite 60 6th – 8th grade Girl and Boy Scouts to participate in hands-on activities that will include cars powered by water, windmill building, and a tour of the new hydro power lab.  The event will be held at SCC, 1810 N Greene, Bldg. 28.  RSVP’s to Patrick Lewis (patrick.lewis@scc.spokane.edu)

Oct. 17: Lewis & Clark High School:  This College and Career Fair from 5-8 p.m. at LCHS will bring together colleges, employers and apprentice program representatives to inform LC students and their parents about many post-high school opportunities that are available, including within the energy industry. Contact: Christin Mackleit (ChristineM@SpokaneSchools.org) or 509-354-6912.

Oct. 15-19: Mobius Science Center, Spokane:  hosting several local professionals in hydropower, nuclear and alternative energies. Additionally, experiential activities will be facilitated on the exhibit floor all week.  Included with general admission to Mobius Science Center. Call (509) 433-5669 for specific schedule .

Oct. 18: Spokane Regional Solid Waste System Steam Plant Tours:  Beginning at 1 p.m., 90-minute tours will show how 800 tons of trash are burned daily to generate electricity. Open to the general public (wear closed-toed shoes and dress for weather). RSVP’s to Seth Dyson (sdyson@wdcspokane.com)

Oct. 19: LaunchPad INW Job Seekers Info Session:  lunch time information sharing on energy-industry careers and tips for job-seekers.   Details and RSVP via www.launchpadinw.com/events

Oct. 20: Gonzaga University and Avista Veterans’ Outreach:  Gonzaga will lead a 2 hour training session in the power system simulator lab (ZagOps). Avista representatives will talk about training paths for veterans to transition into the power industry.  RSVP’s to Jennifer Boettcher (Jennifer.Boettcher@avistacorp.com

Nov. 10: Expand Your Horizons in Spokane: 125 6th–9th grade Girl Scout and non-Girl Scout girls will explore the world of energy through hands on science and technology (STEM) projects at Gonzaga University’s School of Engineering and Applied Science.  RSVP’s to Sarah Betts (sbetts@gsewni.org
 
Published: 10/15/2012  10:28 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 11 , 2012
A service dog helps deliver an Avista form, at the Avista energy fair.
This special service dog lent a paw, at Avista's recent
energy fair in Idaho.
The Avista energy fair in Idaho.

Nearly 200 people - and one very special service dog - attended Avista’s Energy Fair at the Hayden Family Center in Coeur d’Alene yesterday.

The gymnasium was buzzing with conversations about how to keep cold air outside the home this winter by installing items like window plastic and outlet covers to keep drafts from coming indoors. The materials were provided free as part of the energy efficiency tote bag every attendee received as they arrived. Community partners, including the Idaho Department of Labor, ElderHelp of Idaho and the Community Action Partnership talked with fair-goers about the community services and resources available in Kootenai County.

Once the learning was done, warm servings of chili and cornbread quenched the appetites of young and old alike, served up by the ladies from Christ Kitchen, a non-profit that provides job training for women and delicious catering for us to enjoy.

The Avista Energy Fair is one of several outreach activities our company shares with the communities we serve. It gives us an opportunity to personally share information with our customers in locations close to your homes and businesses – making it more convenient for you to find the answers to your questions.

The final Energy Fair for 2012 is scheduled for Thursday, November 8 at Spokane’s East Central Community Center, from 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. Learn more here.
Published: 10/11/2012  2:28 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 11 , 2012
If increases are approved, your natural gas rates will still be lower than they were at this time last year

If you’re an Avista customer in Idaho, you may have heard that today Avista filed requests to increase your electric and natural gas rates in Idaho. Click here to read the press release we just issued.

New and old power pole in Idaho
This power pole in Hayden, Idaho, has deteriorated
to the point where it needs to be replaced. We have
over 240,000 distribution poles in our electric system.
Based on a 40-year depreciable life, we would need
to replace approximately 6,000 poles every year. 
If our requests are approved and you’re an electric residential customer in Idaho using an average of 930 kilowatt hours per month, you would see an increase of $4.20 per month, or about 14 cents a day, for a revised bill of $82.89. If you’re a natural gas customer using an average of 60 therms per month, you would see an increase of $4.12, or about 14 cents a day, for a revised monthly bill of $56.67. The Idaho Public Utilities Commission has up to seven months to approve our requests, and the increases wouldn’t take effect until sometime next year.

You may be thinking we just heard about a rate decrease, so why an increase? The costs of delivering energy to you safely and reliably continue to rise. We work hard to manage our costs, while making sure you have the reliable energy that you expect, at some of the lowest prices in the Northwest. The good news is we’ve been able to pass savings from lower natural gas prices and power costs through to you with multiple rate decreases, and we hope this will help soften the impact of the rising costs of delivery to your energy bill.

Rates have decreased throughout 2012
Effective Oct. 1, if you are an Idaho customer, you saw decreases in both natural gas and electric rates because of lower natural gas prices and lower power supply costs, after the Idaho Public Utilities Commission approved our rate decrease requests filed in July. Your rates have decreased your natural gas rates twice this year, dropping them by approximately 12 percent overall. In fact, even if today’s rate increase request is approved, your natural gas rates will still be lower than they were at this time last year – and around what they were 10 years ago. Electric rates have remained fairly flat as well when you adjust for inflation.
 
We’re maintaining and upgrading our system for you
Maintaining and upgrading our energy-delivery system is ongoing, and costs more with each passing year. It’s a little like taking care of your home or car. You always have maintenance and operation costs, and sometimes you have to upgrade or update old equipment with new. And that’s expensive. For instance, if you remodel your kitchen, new appliances cost much more than the old ones did when they were purchased.

To serve all of our customers in Idaho, Washington and Oregon, Avista has an extensive system that we have to take care of. To do this, we expect to invest approximately $250 million each year for the next three to five years to continue updating and maintaining our system to serve our customers’ energy needs.

Help is available if you’re struggling with bills
We realize in these difficult economic times it can be a struggle for people to meet their basic needs. We offer services for customers such as comfort level billing, payment arrangements and CARES (Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Services) representatives. Our CARES reps are specially-trained employees who provide referrals to area agencies and churches for customers with special needs for help with housing, utilities, medical assistance, and other needs. To learn more, visit www.avistautilities.com.
Published: 10/11/2012  1:00 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 09 , 2012
I-937 requires Avista to have 3 percent eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits (RECs) or a combination of both in 2012
 
 
Avista’s been generating renewable energy for a long time – after all we were founded on hydropower more than a century ago. But starting in 2012 renewable energy has officially become a required part of our energy portfolio.

video
In addition to meeting our customers’ energy needs, Avista has to meet renewable portfolio standards detailed in Washington’s Energy Independence Act. Washington state voters approved the act with the passage of Initiative-937 in 2006. It requires us to use eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits (RECs) or a combination of both to meet the following annual targets: 3 percent of energy used to meet customer demand by Jan. 1, 2012, 9 percent by Jan. 1, 2016 and 15 percent by Jan. 1, 2020.

We just got our first stamp of approval from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission for submitting our renewable portfolio standard report, which details how we will meet our 2012 targets. This was no small feat, and we’ve done it in a way that allows us to continue to meet our goal of providing reliable energy to our customers at a reasonable cost, even as we add new renewable power to our mix.

We will meet the majority of our 2012 requirements simply by doing what we had already planned to do – upgrading our hydroelectric dams, primarily those on the Clark Fork River. We upgraded the generating units at Cabinet Gorge Dam from 2001 to 2007, replacing the original turbines, which were installed in the 1950s. And at Noxon Rapids Dam, we just finished upgrading all four original generating units with new turbines. We did this work to extend the life and capacity of our dams. And with the modern turbines, we can generate more energy using the same amount of water. Better yet, since the upgrades were done after 1999, the additional energy qualified as an eligible renewable resource to meet our state mandates.
 
Palouse Wind
Looking forward
The next big deadline will be 2016, and while it’s still a few years away, we’ve been planning for it for some time. Over the past several years, we followed the market and looked for opportunities to incorporate additional cost-effective sources of renewable power. Lower costs of developing wind power facilities and ongoing tax incentives set to expire at the end of 2012 led us to a request for proposals in early 2011, and later that year we signed a power purchase agreement with the Palouse Wind Project, which has the added benefit of being located in our service territory. 

Palouse Wind has added value in the form of the renewable energy credits it provides. From time to time, we sell surplus RECs that result from the generation of power from renewable resources that exceed our need to meet state requirements.  Sales of excess credits help offset and lower power costs for customers.

A more recent accomplishment gives us even more flexibility in meeting our renewable energy mandates. As one of the first biomass plants of its kind in the country, Kettle Falls has been generating renewable, dependable energy for more than 25 years. We’ve been working since 2008 to get the energy generated at Kettle Falls recognized in Washington state as renewable, and in March of 2012, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed SB 5575 into law. The bill qualifies biomass energy projects built before 1999 as eligible renewable resources. As a result of the bill’s passage, the energy generated at Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant will qualify to meet our renewable requirements beginning in 2016. This will save our customers millions of dollars that we might otherwise have to spend to acquire or build more renewable energy to meet our state mandates.  
Published: 10/9/2012  4:32 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

 Next >>