Jan 18 , 2012
Highlighting community agencies in our service territory
 

SNAP
Avista is proud to partner with many community agencies throughout our service territory that provide services for those most in need. We thought you might like to get better acquainted with our partners, so each quarter we will highlight one agency and the valuable work they are doing to serve our neighbors.

As Spokane County’s community action agency, SNAP is best known for its Heating Assistance program, which Avista supports in many important ways. But SNAP’s services go way beyond that.

Did you know?
SNAP helps create businesses – and jobs – in Spokane
SNAP Financial Access provides small business loans and business education for low- to moderate-income residents.

Lai Len became an entrepreneur just a year after arriving in Spokane from a refugee camp in Malaysia. He enrolled in SNAP Financial Access’s Individual Development Account program and in a year saved enough money to buy a janitorial franchise. “I used to work three jobs,” he said. “I only have to work two now.”

SNAP connects people in crisis or transition
SNAP’s Community Voice Mail program provides a free, 24-hour voicemail number that helps people connect with jobs, housing and other vital resources.

With only the clothes on his back and a past that included jail time and a chunk of unpaid debt, Jerry turned to SNAP. In addition to helping Jerry with housing, heating assistance and money management, SNAP provided him with Community Voice Mail until he could afford a phone of his own. “I was amazed at the amount of programs within SNAP,” he said. “I felt like they provided the light at the end of the tunnel.”

SNAP provides housing to hundreds of families and teaches them how to keep it
Katie
SNAP helped Katie through a
difficult time in her life.
SNAP offers homeless prevention assistance, shelter housing and transitional housing, with a goal to help people become stable and self-sufficient.

Katie was five months pregnant, without a job, taking a full load of college classes, and in need of a safe, secure place to live. She called SNAP, and with help from one of our caseworkers, Katie set goals for her future, took classes in budgeting and learned about renters’ rights. About a month before her son was born, Katie qualified for a beautiful two-bedroom apartment. She continued to work with SNAP and eventually took over the lease. “I will never be homeless again,” Katie said, “because SNAP gave me the tools to be successful for the rest of my life.”

SNAP does a lot for low-income residents of Spokane County. Last year, the organization helped nearly 50,000 people through more than 30 community-based programs. If you or someone you know is in need, give SNAP a call at 456-7111 or visit SNAP online.
Published: 1/18/2012  9:06 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 04 , 2012
Employees work fast and give generously to bring Christmas to a customer in need
 
Donated tree
An Avista employee cut down a Christmas
tree from their own property to give to the
customer, along with donated lights and
holiday decorations.
Donated gift basket
Within 24 hours, the Customer Service
department raised more than $400 from
employee donations, which were delivered
in this gift basket.
 
As a single father who had struggled for a long time after his divorce, Avista Customer Service Representative Steven Schmitt was greatly impacted recently after taking a call from a single dad of two, who was struggling to pay the bills. There was no Christmas in sight for this family – not even a tree. But Schmitt and his co-workers didn’t just stand by and watch Christmas slip away - they sprang into action and brought Christmas to the customer.

The customer explained to Schmitt, that over the last six months, he had lost everything: his home, car, wife and job. He was having a hard time “catching his breath.” He had started a new job and just needed a little extra time to catch up.

“For some reason, this phone call really struck something in me,” Schmitt said. “I remember a time where, if it hadn’t been for the help of family and friends, I was almost the one telling my son he wasn’t going to get a Christmas. No parent should ever have to tell a child that.”

Schmitt wanted to give this customer something he himself was given in a time of need, a warm and bright Christmas for his children.

Schmitt and others in Customer Service were able to work with the customer on a payment arrangement for his energy bill and get the customer in contact with SNAP and some Project Share funds to get the his past due amount paid. SNAP also set him up for an appointment in January for further energy assistance.

That took care of the bill, but there was still no Christmas for his family.

“I wanted them to have a Christmas and knew we had to act fast,” Schmitt recalls. “I sent an email to all my coworkers in Customer Service, explaining the situation and asked if they could help somehow. I work for a wonderful, generous company where the employees are second to none.”

Within 24 hours, the Customer Service department raised more than $400 from employee donations. Schmitt used the funds to buy a bus pass, some gift certificates to local stores and a housewarming gift certificate to help with some of the bill. All the items were put together in a gift basket that included some Avista fleece blankets and water bottles.

An Avista employee even cut down a Christmas tree from their own property to give to the customer, along with donated lights and holiday decorations. Schmitt and a co-worker delivered the gift basket, Christmas tree and decorations to the family the Tuesday before Christmas. It was nothing less than an emotional and enlightening experience for everyone involved. There were a few grateful tears shed during the visit.

According to Schmitt, the customer was extremely grateful, and sent his deepest thanks and gratitude for all the caring hearts at Avista Utilities.

“I am proud to say that I work with an amazing group of people,” Schmitt said. “I thank everyone for their compassion and generosity this holiday season. We were able to make this a happy holiday for a father and his two children.”

If you are in need, we want to hear from you
Avista 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. We want to hear from you before you get behind on your bill – just give us a call. You can even make payment arrangements online.
Published: 1/4/2012  1:39 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 16 , 2011
Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approves multi-party settlement agreement, including increase in energy assistance funding for customers
 
News Release by Debbie Simock
 
Avista received approval today from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) on the multi-party settlement agreement, concluding the company’s electric and natural gas rate requests in Washington. New customer rates will be effective Jan. 1, 2012. Avista made the requests to the UTC on May 16, 2011, followed by a multi--party settlement agreement on Sept. 30, 2011.

“Energy impacts every aspect of our lives. It’s our job to make sure customers can depend on having energy when they need it and that requires a reliable energy delivery system,” said Dennis Vermillion, Avista Corp. senior vice president and president of Avista Utilities. “We are pleased the Commission recognized the need for retail rates to reflect the increased costs necessary to operate our system.”

The approved rates are designed to provide an additional $20.0 million in annual electric revenue and $3.75 million in natural gas annual revenues to recover, among other things, increased investment in Avista’s energy system. The new prices reflect an overall electric increase of 4.5 percent in billed rates and a natural gas increase of 2.5 percent in billed rates.

Effective Jan. 1, 2012, a residential customer using an average of 977 kilowatt-hours of electricity a month would see an increase of $3.02, or 4.0 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $78.00. A residential natural gas customer using an average of 67 therms a month would see a $1.76, or 2.8 percent, increase a month for a revised monthly bill of $64.63. Avista serves more than 234,000 electric and nearly 147,000 natural gas customers in Washington.

Additional annual funding of $550,000 in direct energy bill payment assistance for limited income and senior customers will be available as a result of the UTC approval. The increase includes $370,000 in new funding for Avista’s Low Income Rate Assistance Program (LIRAP), plus $180,000 in reallocated funds from the utility’s conservation education program. In total, annual funding available for the LIRAP program to assist qualifying customers 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.

Information on energy assistance programs and energy efficiency rebates and incentives for customers is available at www.avistautilities.com.

The UTC has requested a more detailed breakdown of executive compensation for informational purposes. Avista will provide the requested information by the February 29, 2012, deadline.

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 Ecova, an energy and sustainability management company with more than 500 multi-site commercial and utility customers, representing more than 450,000 sites.  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 Sept. 30, 2011.
Published: 12/16/2011  6:51 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 04 , 2011
slideshow
 
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
Last evening more than 350 individuals stopped by Avista’s Energy Fair at the West Central Community Center in Spokane. Fairgoers were treated to energy efficiency demonstrations and provided free samples to get their home projects underway this heating season. It’s time to keep the warm air in and the cold air out.
 
Community agencies: SNAP, Second Harvest Food Bank, Money Management Int. and WorkSource were on hand to provide information.
 
Avista customer service representatives met with customers on site and discussed any account or billing questions.
Kids of all ages learned about energy, energy efficiency and safety from Wattson, Avista’s Energy Watchdog, who sang and danced his way into their hearts.
 
A hearty meal was also provided through Christ Kitchen. 
 
Events like this are free to the community, but often are invaluable for our customers.  Similar events, which are staffed by Avista employees, have been held previously in Spokane, Coeur d’Alene and Clarkston. Stay tuned to the blog for the next event in early 2012.
 
If you attended the event last night, let us know what you thought about it here.
 
Published: 11/4/2011  1:33 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 01 , 2011

Banner

Post by Dan Kolbet
 
If you're a customer in Eastern Washington (like me), you may have recieved the following invitation to the Avista Energy Fair at the West Central Community Center. Just in case, I thought I'd re-post the invite here.
 
Dear Avista Customer,
 
We would like to invite you to the Avista Energy Fair at the West Central Community Center located at 1603 N. Belt, Spokane, WA on Thursday, November 3, 2011, from 4:00pm to 7:00pm.
 
Wattson
Avista employees and community service providers will be on hand to answer questions about the following: 
• Bill Assistance – Avista customer service representatives can answer billing questions, provide information about payment options and refer to energy assistance programs. You can also learn how to use Avista’s free online Bill Analyzer.
• Energy Efficiency – See low-cost and no-cost efficiency demonstrations to help keep your home warm like rope caulking, door sweeps and window plastic. Free samples will be handed out.
• Community Assistance – Avista and community service providers will be on hand to answer questions about energy assistance, weatherization and other topics.
• Kids Meet Wattson – Stop by and see Wattson the Energy Watchdog! Kids' activities include crafts, dancing and interactive games
 
Parking is free and there will be complimentary food and beverages, door prizes and activities for the kids.
 
Avista will make every effort to provide reasonable accommodations requested for individuals with disabilities.  Please contact Lisa at Avista, (509) 495-8024 or email lisa.lee@avistacorp.com if accommodations are needed.
 
Sincerely,
 
Avista Utilities
Published: 11/1/2011  3:01 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 18 , 2011
 
Cold weather is on the way – there’s no getting around it. So, before it hits with all its fury, it’s a good time to reach out and provide information about bill assistance and energy efficiency. Two Avista Energy Fairs are scheduled this fall to do just that – Lewiston/Clarkston on October 22 and Spokane on November 3.

“We’ve done two fairs in Spokane and one in Coeur d’Alene over the past year and they have been well attended. We’re pleased that people are finding value in the energy efficiency demonstrations and weatherization materials they receive,” said Anne Marie Axworthy, Avista’s director of consumer affairs. “It’s great to take customer service opportunities like the Energy Fair out to where it’s convenient for our customers. Our hope is that the information about billing options, energy assistance and energy efficiency is helpful to those struggling to pay their bills and also of benefit for anyone who wants to better manage their energy use.”

Avista employees and community service providers will be on hand to answer questions about the following:
 
• Bill Assistance – Avista customer service representatives will answer billing questions, provide information about payment options and refer customers to energy assistance programs. And they will demonstrate how to use Avista’s free online Bill Analyzer to get more information about managing your energy bill.
• Energy Efficiency – See low-cost and no-cost efficiency demonstrations to help keep your home warm like rope caulking, door sweeps and window plastic. Free samples will be handed out.
• Community Assistance – Avista and community service providers will be on hand to answer questions about energy assistance, weatherization, and other topics.

For the kids, and the kids at heart, Wattson, Avista’s energy watchdog, will guide attendees through his musical message of energy efficiency and safety. Employee volunteers will have craft projects and interactive activities available to keep little hands busy while taking a break from the information tables. Food and beverages, door prizes and a grand prize basket that includes a Housewarming Certificate will also be available to all participants.

What you need to know
Saturday, October 22: Walla Walla Community College, 1470 Bridge St., Clarkston, Wash. 2 p.m. – 4 p.m.
 
Thursday, November 3: West Central Community Center, 1603 N. Belt St., Spokane, 4 p.m. – 7 p.m.
Published: 10/18/2011  3:21 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 23 , 2011
SNAP video
 
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
Just because it’s not cold outside, doesn’t mean you can ignore your heating bills. SNAP created the video above to remind qualified folks in Spokane County to contact them about heating assistance. It’s a good reminder.
 
Published: 6/23/2011  11:22 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 16 , 2011
Today Avista files for electric and natural gas rate increase in Washington
 
Post by Debbie Simock

When you need energy, you expect it to be there. That’s reliability. And, making sure it’s there is our job. A key to ensuring that happens is having infrastructure – poles, pipes, wires, transformers, substations, equipment and generating facilities – in place that can reliably do the job and continue to meet the growing demand for energy.

Old transformer
Can you guess how old this transformer is?
Hint – Harry Truman was President of the United
States. This transformer has been in continuous
service since 1947 and is one example of the
need to replace aging infrastructure to ensure
reliability.
That’s why we’re investing approximately $250 million in our utility infrastructure in 2011.

The cost of upgrading equipment today is significantly more expensive than the equipment being replaced, some of which has been serving customers for 40 to 70 years. These increased costs are the major driver in the request we filed today with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to increase electric rates by an overall 8.7 percent and overall 4.0 percent for natural gas. Read more in the news release. 
 
If approved it would increase the bill for a residential electric customer using an average 977 kilowatt hours per month by $7.13 per month, or 9.3 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $84.14. For natural gas it would increase the bill for a residential customer using an average of 67 therms a month by $3.26, or 5.1 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $66.71.

Rates are going up for customers across the U.S. and we know that any increase in rates can be a challenge for customers. That’s why we are committed to offering energy efficiency programs for all customers and to supporting energy assistance services that help those residential customers who are most impacted by rising prices.

We’re here to answer your questions and provide information about our energy future. Take a few minutes to watch the short Take a Closer Look at How Rates are Set video. There, you’ll also learn more about What’s Driving the Cost of Energy and the work we’re doing to ensure that you have the reliable energy you expect.
 
Published: 5/16/2011  1:10 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 05 , 2011
WWP's The Illuminator
The Illuminator was Washington Water Power's
monthly employee publication from the 1920s to the
1980s.
Comfort Level Billing helps smooth
the ups and downs of your monthly bill
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

Next week Avista will publish print advertisements in local newspapers and run radio spots reminding customers about our billing assistance options. This time of year is often tough on budgets due to our cold winters. This winter (especially when compared to the previous one) has been rather chilly so the timing couldn’t be better.

A co-worker reminded me yesterday about the history behind our Comfort Level Billing program that allows customers to smooth out the ups and downs of a monthly bill into one similar payment every month. The company – then Washington Water Power – started the program in 1957 as a budget billing system.

Click to read 1957 article
Click above to read the introduction of
Comfort Level Billing from 1957.
Yep, that was 54 years ago when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and the company only offered electric service. So if you’re not signed up, it’s not like you haven’t had any time to do it.

Check out this article “Billing System Devised to Ease Customer Payment,” which originally ran in the Washington Water Power employee newsletter, The Illuminator. The program was in its infancy, so a couple of the details have changed since then, but the basic program is the same.
 
Learn more about other billing assistance options here.
Published: 1/5/2011  10:50 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 16 , 2010
At issue is how energy assistance funds are credited to customer accounts
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

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.

If you have any questions about this topic, send us an e-mail at conversation@avistautilities.com

News release
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.
Published: 12/16/2010  4:19 PM | 1  Comment | 0  Links to this post

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