Dec 22 , 2010
Creating a sustainable energy future will take all of us working together, bringing new ideas to the table and sharing in a new era of securing, delivering and using energy. Over 250 people gathered in Spokane Valley for the event.
Questions about the event or any of the topics? E-mail
Dec 16 , 2010
At issue is how energy assistance funds are credited to customer accounts
Earlier today Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission issued a news release regarding Avista
and its application of energy assistance grants, or pledge monies, to the accounts of customers who have been disconnected for non-payment. Below is our news release, sent out at 4 p.m. today, that provides a few explanatory details on the subject.
Avista Reviewing Commission Notice of Non-Compliance
At issue is how energy assistance funds are credited to customer accounts
SPOKANE, Wash. – Dec 16, 2010, 4:00 PST: Avista is reviewing the notice it received today from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) stating the company is considered in violation of certain state consumer protection rules primarily relating to the application of energy assistance grants, or pledge monies, to the accounts of customers who have been disconnected for non-payment. The company was assessed a $62,100 fine.
“Avista and the UTC share a common concern for our customers and both want to help them avoid an interruption in their service because of non-payment,” said Vicki Weber, Avista’s director of customer service. “All energy assistance grants customers receive are fully applied to their account - that fact is not in question by the UTC. We believe that certain aspects of the rules are unclear, and we look forward to working with commission staff in order to avoid future misunderstandings.”
When an energy assistance grant is received for a customer who has had a service interruption for non-payment, Avista applies the funds to the customer’s past due amount - including prior balance - to help bring the account balance to zero. Prior balance is the dollar amount, excluding deposit amounts owed, the utility has billed to the customer for the energy they have already used and for which the utility has not received payment at the time the service was disconnected for nonpayment.
At issue is whether energy assistance grants should be applied only to current and future amounts billed since the service was reconnected, or whether assistance grants should also be applied to past due amounts.
“Avista has a long history of care and support for our customers,” Weber said. “Through Avista’s tariff-based Low-Income Rate Assistance Program (LIRAP), approximately $3.3 million in energy assistance is available annually for qualifying customers and approximately $1.7 million for natural gas customers. Additionally, $2 million in assistance is available to help qualifying customers improve the energy efficiency of their homes through Avista’s low-income weatherization program.”
In the fourth quarter of 2010, Avista shareholders also contributed $425,000 to Project Share, a program which provides emergency energy assistance to qualifying households that have exhausted other avenues of aid, regardless of the fuel used to heat the home. Recipients of Project Share assistance do not have to be Avista customers.
The notice and associated fine are a result of an audit conducted by the UTC on randomly selected Avista customers who had their electric and/or natural gas service disconnected between Oct. 15 and 31, 2009, because of non-payment. Avista was one of five regulated electric and natural gas utilities in Washington State that were similarly audited.
Avista has up to 15 days to pay the $62,100 fine, request a hearing to contest the violations or request a reduction in the fine.
Nov 09 , 2010
At the end of each video a sharing menu appears, making it simple and easy to get the word out
At the end of each video this menu appears with several
options for sharing, including e-mail, Facebook, Twitter,
Google, Blogger, Wordpress and more.
Post by Dan Kolbet
Thousands of you have already browsed Energy On The Street
, our interactive customer engagement video project where we get answers to your most pressing questions. Earlier this month we added six new video Q&As, featuring topics such as rates, generation, rebates, renewables and bills. Today, 18 videos are available for you to view.
You can help spread the word about Energy on the Street
by watching your favorite video and sharing it. Here’s how it works – at the end of each video a black and gray menu appears on screen with several options for sharing. (It looks like the image above). You can share the link through e-mail, Facebook, Twitter, Google, Blogger, Wordpress and more.
Nov 08 , 2010
Click on the slideshow above to view images from Powering Our Future: Choices, Opportunities and Costs. These 23 photos capture much of the interaction and discussion during the event.
The interactive energy event was held in late October in Spokane Valley, drawing more than 200 attendees from Washington and Idaho. As part of our ongoing effort to engage customers and communities, we talked about forces at play in the energy industry, renewable energy, the role of energy efficiency, and more.
If you'd like to see captions with the images, click here
Oct 22 , 2010
Videographer Duane Regehr, Limited Income Program Manager Chris
McCabe and Communications Manager Dan Kolbet pause for a
photo between Energy on the Street takes.
Post by Dan Kolbet
Today was a great day. We recorded eight new question and answer videos for Energy on the Street
, our interactive customer project that helps get you answers to your most pressing questions about energy. I plan to have a new batch of edited videos on our Energy on the Street
page by early November.
Trying to schedule a number of employees to record answers on the same day is a bit tricky, but thankfully everyone was willing and happy to make today fit their schedule. This morning I was a bit worried about the shoot while driving into work – it was raining and I’d planned to record the answers outside. Thankfully, the sun peaked through the clouds at just the right times and allowed our Avista experts to answer your questions without getting soaked!
Today we tackled questions about rates and pricing, wind and solar power, time of day metering, PUDs and investor-owned utilities and more.
We also recorded our first Avista expert responding to a question that was e-mailed to us by a customer through our firstname.lastname@example.org
inbox. If you’ve got additional questions for us, send us an e-mail, we’d love to get you an answer.
Oct 07 , 2010
Post by Dan Kolbet
You depend on Avista to supply you with energy whenever you need it. Ever wonder how we make sure we’re ready for the future? With a growing regional population and increasing demands on energy, how does Avista plan for the future to ensure it can provide for its customers? This question from Energy on the Street gives you all the know-how. Length: 1:13.
Sep 27 , 2010
This morning I got an e-mail from a friend who said she heard an Avista Energy on the Street radio spot on her drive to work this morning. She checked out the website, www.AvistaUtilities.com/Street
, as a result. It worked! Pretty cool.
We did radio spots to get the word out to you - our customers - that this interactive tool is available for you to use. If you didn’t know about it, I couldn’t very well expect you to watch a video or ask a question, right? Now you know.
I’ve got a personal stake in this project because I was lucky enough to be the guy interviewing our customers and employees and talking about energy. I was selected to record the radio spots (and write them too), for that reason. I want to see it succeed, but this project is not about me. Our customers and employees are the real stars of Energy on the Street and I think if you have a chance to review the videos, you’ll see that too. Like I say in the radio spots, I met some great people when we hit the streets with a camera to talk energy.
If you’re not a radio listener, here are the audio clips.
15-Second Spot: Energy on the Street, Pressing Questions
30-Second Spot: Energy on the Street, What your Neighbors Are Talking About
Sep 24 , 2010
Where does renewable power come from?
Avista Stadium is powered 100% by renewable energy through Avista's Block-a-Block program. Where does that energy come from? (0:37)
This video is just one of the Energy on the Street
customer questions and Avista answers. Hopefully you’ve had a chance to visit this interactive website. It launched on Sept. 1. We'll be adding more videos to the website in October.
Sep 16 , 2010
Post by Bryan Cox
, Director of Natural Gas Delivery
The recent natural gas explosion and fire in California has prompted some customers to ask questions about our pipeline system and natural gas safety. While this was a terrible incident, it provides us with the opportunity to discuss the mainly-distribution system we operate, what Avista does to ensure a safe system and what you should do if you smell natural gas.
We can’t speculate on the circumstances of the California incident, though we do know the pipeline that ruptured was a 30-inch, steel transmission line. While Avista operates about 125 miles of transmission lines in Washington and Oregon, this represents less than 1 percent of all the pipelines in our system. Our company is mainly a distribution company – operating about 11,125 miles of distribution/service pipelines.
The distinction between transmission and distribution is a key one. A transmission line is generally a higher pressure, larger diameter pipeline. Roughly 99 percent of our pipelines are lower-pressure, smaller diameter distribution lines. These are lines you would find running down a residential street and to your meter.
Following all state and federal regulations regarding our natural gas lines, Avista routinely conducts assessments and leak surveys. The survey includes physically walking the lines and searching for leaks using highly-sensitive equipment. If any concerns are discovered, we make improvements or repairs to ensure public safety. We are also subject to regular audits by our regulatory agencies.
What can you do if you smell gas?
We also rely on our customers to let us know if they smell natural gas, so we can respond appropriately. Because safety is a top priority, one of the first things our phone system will ask you is: “Are you calling about a natural gas leak?”
If you smell natural gas (which is odorized to smell like rotten eggs) - follow these tips:
• Don’t do anything that might create a spark. Examples include smoking, lighting matches, turning electrical switches on or off, using the telephone, running equipment.
• Open your windows and outside doors, if possible.
• Evacuate everyone in your home or building, and stay out until someone from Avista Utilities tells you it is safe to return.
• Keep others away from the area.
• Call Avista Utilities at (800) 227-9187, from a neighbor’s phone.
Why call 811?
811 is the universal “Call Before You Dig” number. The most common incidents regarding natural gas lines involve third-party damage, such as a contractor or homeowner digging into a buried distribution line. Customers should always call 811, two business days prior to digging. The service is free to have the locations of underground lines located and marked.
Given the recent headlines coming out of California, it’s natural for all of us to be asking questions – and that’s why we’re writing about these concerns on the Avista Blog. If you’d like more information about natural gas safety, click here.
Sep 01 , 2010
Today is a great day. Our interactive online feature, Energy on the Street is now live and ready for your questions. This summer I attended several community events and went to public places and talked to many Avista customers about energy. The ultimate goal was to gather their questions – the things they cared about most. I then took those questions and got answers to the most pressing topics from my co-workers, who happen to be experts in the fields discussed.
The web launch today at www.avistautilities.com/street
is really just the beginning of this project. Currently posted are six videos, which span an array of topics. We’ll post additional videos every few weeks through the fall. So hopefully you’ll check back often.
I’ve been writing about this project for a few months now on the blog and on Twitter. We announced where we’d be filming and even posted pictures of customers and employees talking with us. You can read every blog post here.
I think this really speaks to the transparency of the project. We truly want our customers to know what we’re up to and to participate.
We want your questions
We’re ready to answer your additional questions and I know from participating in online forums – and even talking to family and friends at BBQs this summer – that more questions are out there. If you have a question that you’d like Avista to answer on camera, send it to me in an e-mail at Conversation@avistautilities.com
and we’ll make it happen.
Visit Energy on the Street