May 04 , 2012
Post By Laurine Jue

Smart Grid Web Portal

Thanks to new Smart Grid technology, approximately 6,500 Pullman customers can now access their real-time energy usage simply by logging onto their “My Avista” account. It’s the latest milestone in Avista’s Smart Grid Demonstration Project that’s underway in Pullman.

Avista has joined with regional partners, led by Battelle, to develop a smart grid demonstration project using matching stimulus funds from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE). The intent of the demonstration project is to show how smart grid technology can enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of energy delivery on a regional and national level.

The past two years have been spent designing, constructing and installing complex technology, including advanced meters, in the Pullman area that create the foundation for secure, two-way, wireless communication between customer meters and Avista.

As part of the demonstration project, Avista recently started a one-year study designed to test whether access to energy usage information has any potential impact on peoples’ behavior.

Approximately 6,500 randomly-selected customers in the Pullman area were given access to a special advanced meter web portal that lets them view their energy usage down to the hour, make adjustments and start saving energy based on their energy choices and behavior. They can see charts and graphs that track changes or trends and make more informed decisions about how to use energy. 

The remaining customers in the Pullman area will not have access to the special Advanced Meter Web Portal until April 2013 when the study period concludes.

Studies like this are helping Avista learn how new technologies can enhance the safety, reliability and efficiency of energy delivery for all of our customers.
Published: 5/4/2012  3:15 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 20 , 2012
mini excavator
 
By knowing what’s below, contractors and homeowners are making wise decisions

Tim Sweet, co-owner of Clearwater Summit Group
Tim Sweet,
co-owner
of Clearwater
Summit Group, Inc.
Guest Blog Post by: Tim Sweet, co-owner of Clearwater Summit Group, Inc.
A landscape design, construction and maintenance company
 
Digging in the dirt has been a part of my daily life for the last 29 years I have been in business. As the owner of a full-service landscape company, safety, as you can imagine is a huge focus in my line of work.

Landscaping in the Spokane and Couer d’Alene region is a seasonal operation which means tight schedules and deadlines. It is important for my company to have clear lines of communication between the project manager and crew, the homeowner, the general contractor and/or subcontractor and the utility locate company. In fact, Clearwater Summit Group is never bashful about calling in a utility locate. One wrong move can compromise the safety of our employees as well as cost us time, money and credibility with the homeowner or general contractor.
 
Color codes for locates
utility locates marked on ground
In order to maximize our efficiency and safe operations, we have a clearly defined process for calling in utility locates. Our one rule of thumb is to never assume anything. If there is a doubt, we encourage our employees to voice their concerns to the project manager.

Since April is National Safe Digging Month, we are making it our mission at Clearwater Summit Group is to educate our customers about using the 811 Call Before you Dig system. Many of our clients will add to their landscape year after year and we want them to be aware of how important it is to know what’s below the surface of their yards before they embark on any DIY projects. Please help us and Avista spread the word about the importance of using the 811 system.
 
A message about 811 from Avista
We are proud to post messages from members of the community who are interested in helping us spread the word about the importance of using the free 811 utility locate system. Safety and reliability are top priorities for customers and that’s important when it comes to natural gas. Last year there were 552 customer or contractor dig-ins to Avista’s underground natural gas lines. That’s 7.9 dig-ins for every 1,000 locates which is higher than the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal is to reduce the number of dig-ins in 2012 by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce costs.
 
Published: 4/20/2012  2:05 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 13 , 2012

Spokane River

The spring runoff season is just beginning, and can create dangerous river flows and lake levels. Stay safe by staying out of the water during high flows.

Post by Anna Scarlett

The high river flows and lake levels we saw in the first week of April brought breathtaking views at our area dams along with water over some parts of our roads and trails. This may have you thinking we’re well into the spring runoff season. But the fact is what we saw earlier this month was just a preview of what’s to come.

An abundance of early spring rain rapidly increased the flow of water into Coeur d’Alene Lake, and from there, into the Spokane River in the last days of March and early part of April. The Spokane River peaked on April 3 with nearly 28,000 cubic feet per second flowing through downtown Spokane, while Coeur d’Alene Lake peaked at just over 2,131 feet above sea level, or about 3 feet above its normal summer level. Since then, river and lake levels have gradually fallen, remaining fairly steady for the last few days.

Today (April 13), they’re starting to rise slightly again – and we’re likely in for a couple  more months of high waters. Due to higher than normal seasonal snowpack (as of Friday April 13, it’s still at 108 percent of normal), and warmer expected temperatures in addition to the heavy rainfall we’ve already received, the National Weather Service is predicting above average river flows in the area in the coming months.

Safety is a top priority at Avista. So as warmer, sunny days draw you to the water, we want to remind you that Coeur d’Alene Lake and the downstream river and reservoir levels can change rapidly at any time, due to weather and other factors. Please use caution on the water and comply with all posted notices and closures, especially near the vicinity of hydroelectric facilities, and always wear your life jacket when on the water.

Property owners and lake users – remember to make necessary preparations, including removing boats from the water, and removing or securing docks and boathouses to accommodate changing water conditions.

When recreating on or along a river or reservoir, always follow these important safety tips:

• Always be alert for debris, obstructions, and partially submerged objects.
• Always obey warning signs near dams.
• Never cross boater restraining cables or buoy lines that designate areas where boats should not operate.
• Never fish, swim or boat above or below a dam - water levels can change rapidly with little warning due to operation of spill gates and turbines.
• If in a sailboat or catamaran, always look for overhead cables and power lines.
• Always wear personal flotation devices (PFDs), even if you are an adult.
• Never operate watercraft under the influence of drugs or alcohol.
• When on the water, obey all warning signs and follow all rules and regulations.

Remember rivers and streams are at their peak flows during spring and early summer. For more safety information, visit http://www.avistautilities.com/safety/dams.

Access water level information 24 hours a day
Avista has a 24-hour telephone information line that provides notification of anticipated changes on Lake Spokane, the Spokane River and Coeur d’Alene Lake.

In Washington call 509-495-8043; in Idaho, call 208-769-1357.

The recorded information line advises shoreline property owners, commercial and recreational users of changes in the lake and river elevation levels that may affect plans for water use. You can also check current river and lake levels on our website at http://www.avistautilities.com, keyword search “weather and water.”
 
LEARN MORE:
 
Published: 4/13/2012  4:19 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 12 , 2012
 
 
Osprey couple
Thanks to a partnership between Avista, The City of Sandpoint, Keokee Publishing and Northland Communications, a pair of osprey in Sandpoint have a new home – and even better, the community can watch while the pair finishes their nest and settles in – that is, if they decide to stay.

The new webcam at Sandpoint’s Memorial Field came online last week, and has picked up quite a bit of activity in the past several days, including several drop-ins by single osprey, and a pair who just yesterday visited the nest several times, going so far as bringing at least one stick back to the nest.

The cam was installed as a collaborative project between the City of Sandpoint and Keokee Publishing, in partnership with Avista and Northland Communications.

North Idaho is home to one the country's largest nesting population of ospreys, mostly due to the bounty of fish they are able to retrieve from our local bodies of water. Since fish count for 99 percent of their diet, it should come as no big surprise that they choose their homes near the beautiful lakes and rivers in our region. In fact, they usually pick a nesting location within three miles of a body of water and return to it year after year. These attractive raptors not only have great taste in housing locations, but they have a romantic side as well, as most of them mate for life. Many times the housing locations are on our electrical facilities.
 
Last year, the City of Sandpoint, as part of a series of upgrades at the city’s Memorial Field, replaced the field’s old, decrepit lights with new ones. Two of the old light poles had osprey nests built right atop the lights themselves. When those were removed, the city, with Avista’s help, built new nesting platforms in the park. The idea of the web cam was born shortly thereafter, with a goal of educating the public about the raptors.

Avista has ongoing programs in raptor protection, which include public education and outreach, retrofitting our poles to support nesting raptors and adopting management practices that protect birds and other wildlife. This project fits perfectly with that commitment.

The new web is streamed onto a special section of Sandpoint Online.

Take a peek now at www.sandpointonline.com/ospreys.
Published: 4/12/2012  6:56 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 03 , 2012
Contractor dig-in causes gas outage impacting 105 homes or businesses; quick response gets customers relit in a hurry
 

Inspecting natural gas pipeline break.
An employee inspects the scene of a natural gas line
dig in at Dalton Gardens, Idaho last week. 105
homes or businesses were without gas overnight
during the repair and relight process.
When it comes to the 24/7-natural gas and electric service we all depend on, Avista’s top priority is to provide it safely and reliably. It is a commitment we all take seriously, and work hard to ensure every day.

An example of this occurred Monday, March 26 at a construction site in Dalton Gardens, Idaho. A contractor struck a four-inch steel natural gas line. The line break was blowing natural gas into the area. A four-inch line doesn’t seem big; however, that size natural gas pipeline can send natural gas to numerous commercial and residential buildings. For comparison, the internal diameter of a typical residential natural gas line is roughly three-quarters of an inch.

We received the emergency call around 4 p.m., just as our natural gas crews were getting ready to go home from their workday. A crew responded immediately to secure the area from potential danger and repair the natural gas line.

After working for nearly 24 hours between their normal workday and the emergency response, the three-man crew finished the repair.  Another crew arrived early in the morning to go door-to-door to all 105 businesses and residences to ensure their natural gas service was back on and to relight their natural gas appliances. 

Though larger natural gas line incidents rarely occur, you can count on us 24/7 when they do. That’s standing by our commitment to provide safe and reliable service to your homes and businesses.

What you should do if there is a gas leak outdoors
Below are some instructions on what to do if a natural gas line is ever struck or you believe there is a leak nearby.
When outdoors, look for these signs:
• Rotten egg odor in the air. We add an odorant that smells like rotten eggs so you’ll know right away if there is a problem.
• Blowing or hissing sound
• Dust blowing from a hole in the ground
• Continuous bubbling in wet or flooded areas
• Dead or discolored vegetation in an otherwise green area

In the event of a natural gas leak, your safety and of those around you are priority one. Any time you smell or hear a gas leak, take these precautions:

• Evacuate the immediate area. Leave immediately on foot in the direction away from where the gas is leaking. Warn others to keep away from the affected area.
• Call Avista Utilities at 1-800-227-9187, and stay on the phone with us until we have all the information we need to send help. Never assume someone else has already reported the leak.

Because natural gas is lighter than air, it becomes combustible when mixed with air and exposed to an ignition source. Don’t smoke, light matches, turn your electrical switches on or off, use the telephone or do anything else that might create a spark.

To report a life-threatening emergency, always call 911.

April is National Call Before You Dig Month
811
Spring is officially here; and with the warming of the season comes outdoor projects. Before you start digging any time of year, remember to make one easy phone call to 811 or a click of the mouse to http://www.call811.com to get your underground utility lines marked.
 
It’s easy and free. Just call 811 or request at http://www.call811.com at least two business days before you dig, and a professional locator will come to your proposed dig site to mark the approximate location of the lines. Once you know where they are, it’s safe to start digging.

Know what's below. Always call before you dig. You can find more information about the Call Before You Dig program at http://www.call811.com or at http://www.avistautilities.com (keyword search: call before you dig).
 
 
Published: 4/3/2012  9:54 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 02 , 2012
April is National Call Before You Dig month

Those boots are made for digging . . .
"Those boots are made for digging and that’s
just what they’ll do, but one of these days if you
don’t call 811" . . . OK, so song lyrics don’t really
fit here. Call 811 two days before digging to
locate underground utility lines. 
It’s April and that can mean oone thing. Yep, it’s National Call Before You Dig month.

To mark the month, the governors of Washington, Idaho and Oregon have again issued proclamations for their respective states recognizing April as Safe Digging Month and encouraging citizens to call the 811 one-call service two days in advance for free locates of underground utilities lines.

Not calling before starting those spring projects that involve digging could mean injury, damages to utilities and service disruptions, and potential fines and repair costs. A number of communications are planned this month to help make sure customers and contractors know the importance of calling 811 or going online at www.callbeforeyoudig.org to request a locate of underground lines.

Safety and reliability are top priorities for customers and that’s important when it comes to natural gas. Last year there were 552 customer or contractor dig-ins to Avista’s underground natural gas lines. That’s 7.9 dig-ins for every 1,000 locates which is higher than the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal is to reduce the number of dig-ins in 2012 by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce costs.
Published: 4/2/2012  9:12 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 15 , 2012
video

Post & video by Dan Kolbet
 
Reliability: Click to View Service Territory Map
When the lights flicker or go out, you expect someone at Avista be working on getting that power back on, and rightfully so. Often our crews are working on your power down the street or somewhere out of your view and you don’t get the chance to see their work, other than when the lights come back on. On a very windy February day, we rode along with an electrical crew that was restoring power to show you some of the work that goes into a typical restoration.

The video shows that a tree branch came into contact with a power line, damaging some overhead equipment. Crews made a temporary fix and routed power around the damaged insulator, then moved on to the next outage. A permanent fix for the insulator will occur after winds calm. If we had made that longer repair first, the crew wouldn’t have been able to move on to the next outage so quickly, potentially lengthening another customer’s restoration time.

Our crews do this work for you, regardless of weather conditions. A neighboring homeowner even brought out a plate of treats for the crew - very nice of her.
 
The video is set to the tune of "Dust in the Wind." A sad song, but fitting for such a windy, dusty day!

For more stories about reliability, renewable energy, the environment, community, rates and more, visit us here at the Avista Blog often.

Much of this blog post was originally posted on Feb. 24, 2012.
 
Facebook
Published: 3/15/2012  2:09 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 15 , 2012
video
 
Crews brave the cold to bring reliable service to you in $1.4 million project
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

 
Reliability: Click to View Service Territory Map
If you’ve traveled along Highway 95 in North Idaho by Silverwood this winter, you may have seen Avista natural gas crews working alongside the busy highway. We wanted to let you know what they are up to. Our crews are relocating and increasing capacity for six miles of natural gas pipeline to accommodate a newly constructed highway.

The Idaho Department of Transportation is reconstructing a portion of Highway 95 from approximately Chilco to Athol.  The highway will expand from two to four lanes, which is great for safety and traffic, but means Avista’s existing 3-inch natural gas pipeline needs to move to a new right-of-way on the east side of the road.

Avista is expanding the capacity of the pipeline from 3 to 6 inches too. Expanded capacity helps serve existing customer needs and helps prepare our infrastructure for the future. The estimated cost for this project is around $1.4 million. Part of our requests for customer rate adjustments typically includes infrastructure work like this project.

You can see from the video that the crews are clearing a pathway, laying down 40-foot lengths of yellow plastic pipe, fusing them together and then burying the pipeline with sandy soil. The sandy soil protects the pipeline from being touched rocks or hard objects that could put pressure on the new pipeline. After the line is in place it will be pressure tested before being brought into service.

The project started in mid-December and should be completed by the end of March. One of the biggest hurdles the crews had to overcome in January and February was snow and frost. At times crews had to dig through 12 to 24 inches of frozen ground to make a trench that goes much deeper. Typically large projects like this aren’t completed during winter months, but Avista and other utilities agreed to do the work now to accommodate the Idaho Department of Transportation’s aggressive schedule. Snow means everything gets covered and can slow progress, but our crews are used to working through it.

For more stories about reliability, renewable energy, the environment, community, rates and more, visit us here at the Avista Blog often.

Much of this blog post was originally posted on Jan. 6 and 18.
 
Facebook
Published: 3/15/2012  1:42 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 14 , 2012
Facebook picture
Facebook picture
Please “like” Avista Utilities on Facebook 
and get the conversation started

Post by Dan Kolbet
 
 
If you’re reading this post, you’re one of the thousands of people who stop by the Avista Blog each month. Yes, I wrote “thousands.” We’ve been at this blog thing for quite some time now. We launched in June of 2009 and have maintained a steady following here, on YouTube and Twitter. And we appreciate each and every one of you. But now we’ve added another channel – Facebook.

We’re a tad bit late to the game on Facebook – just ask one of the 845 million people already using the site. Yet, I think we have some great content and stories to share that will make your experience on Facebook unique and informative, otherwise we’d be just another bland Facebook page. And that’s just not Avista.

Here are a few examples. When your lights go out during a storm and you’re sitting in the dark (briefly), you want to know that a crew is working on your restoration. We’ve created some videos to show what it looks like for a typical outage. What really goes into that process? On the natural gas side we’ve created videos and slide shows that feature our crews building new pipelines that serve you. These are projects you probably wouldn’t see any other way, but can get an up close view through Facebook.

But Facebook isn’t just about Avista showing you what we’re working on. You can ask general questions, make comments, share or like posts. It’s an ongoing conversation.

Brandi Smith (@AvistaBrandi) and myself (@AvistaDan) monitor the page and post content Monday-Friday, 8 a.m.-5 p.m. If you use Facebook, you already know how this works and I encourage you to like our page and get the ball rolling.

“Like” Avista Utilities
To “like” Avista Utilities, Facebook users should go to www.facebook.com/avistautilities and click “like.” It’s that easy. 

Like Avista

Published: 3/14/2012  9:49 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 01 , 2012
Post by Brandi Smith

Avista Gas crews working along Highway 95
If you are an Avista customer in Washington or Idaho, you will see a decrease in your natural gas rates starting today, March 1. The wholesale cost of natural gas is a major driver in the price you pay per month for gas. The cost of natural gas makes up about 65 percent of your bill. This cost is passed through directly to you without mark up.
 
With the new lower rates now in effect, a residential customer in Washington using an average of 67 therms per month will see a decrease of $3.90, or 6.0 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $60.73. An Idaho residential customer using an average of 62 therms per month will see a $3.46, or 5.7 percent, decrease for a revised monthly bill of $57.50. Avista has approximately 149,000 natural gas customers in Washington and 76,000 in Idaho.
 
The utility commissions in both states quickly approved Avista’s Feb. 13 requests to lower natural gas rates because of declining wholesale prices. This request is called a Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA). The PGA approval is good news for you, so we wanted to pass these price decreases on to you as quickly as we could. 
 
PGA filings are typically made once a year in the fall to balance the cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista to serve you. Given the decline in wholesale natural gas prices, Avista proposed to decrease the natural gas rates our customers pay to better reflect current market prices for natural gas.
Published: 3/1/2012  11:10 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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