Nov 25 , 2014

On Nov. 25, 2014, Avista received approval from the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (Commission or UTC) on the all-party settlement in our electric and natural gas general rate case. New rates will take effect on Jan. 1, 2015.

 

You may recall we filed a general rate request on Feb. 4, 2014 to increase electric and natural gas base rates in Washington that would support the ongoing need to expand and replace the facilities and equipment we use every day to serve our customers. This approval from the Commission concludes the rate case and supports these efforts.

 

What Does This Mean?

The Commission’s approval will increase electric and natural gas base rates as well as account for new and expiring rebates. Base rates are those that cover the total cost of providing electricity and natural gas service to customers. This includes generating and purchasing energy as well as the delivery of that energy to customers.

 

The overall change in customer billing rates, including the expiring and new rebates, is 2.5 percent for electric customers and 5.6 percent for natural gas customers.

 

Residential Customer Bills Based on Average Usage

 

Electric – residential customer using an average 965 kilowatt hours per month

·         Total billed increase of $2.10 a month or 2.7 percent

·         A revised monthly bill of $81.13

·         An increase in the monthly basic charge from $8.00 to $8.50

 

Natural Gas - customer using an average of 65 therms per month

·         Increase of $3.70 or 6.0 percent

·         A revised monthly bill of $64.89

·         An increase in the monthly basic charge from $8.00 to $9.00

 

 

The bill increase for each customer group (e.g. residential, commercial) may differ due to adjustments to better reflect the cost to serve each customer group.

 

For more details, read the new release here and the blog regarding the settlement here.

 

Learn more about the rate-making process here. You can also watch this video and read this one-sheet.

 
Published: 11/25/2014  5:11 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 03 , 2014
 

Over the last couple of months, we’ve told you about annual rate adjustments that we have filed with our utility commissions in each of the states we serve. These included annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustments (PGA) filed in Washington, Idaho and Oregon, the Idaho Power Cost Adjustment (PCA), and rate adjustments in the Washington and Idaho Residential Exchange Programs.

 

Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA)

Power Cost Adjustment (PCA)

Residential Exchange Program

The PGA is an annual adjustment that balances the actual cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista with the amount already included in current rates - we do not mark up the cost of natural gas to meet customer needs. We are required to file the PGA each year, and costs can go up or down, based on the cost of wholesale natural gas.

The PCA is an annual rate adjustment in Idaho made to reflect certain differences between Avista’s actual cost of generating and purchasing electric power to serve customers and the cost currently included in customer rates.

 

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) Residential Exchange Program provides a share of the benefits of the federal Columbia River power system to the residential and small farm customers of the investor-owned utilities in the Pacific Northwest. We apply the benefits we receive, which typically fluctuate from year to year, to customers as a credit on their monthly electric bill.

 

 

These rate adjustments, filed between July 30, 2014 and Sept. 15, 2014, have been approved by the various utility commissions, and customers will begin seeing these in reflected in their monthly utility bills, as of Oct. 1 (Idaho PCA and Idaho Residential Exchange Program) and Nov. 1 (all other filings). Below are the details of each of these adjustments in each state.

 

Idaho

Filing

Details

Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA)

Residential customer bills based on average usage of 60 therms per month:

·        Decrease of $1.16 or 2 percent

·        Revised monthly bill of $58.32

Power Cost Adjustment and Residential Exchange Program

Residential customer bills based on average usage of 930 kilowatt hours per month:

·        Increase of $3.45 or 4.2 percent per month

·        Revised monthly bill from $81.88 to $85.33

 

 

Read more about these filings here and here.

 

Oregon

Filing

Details

Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA)

Residential customer bills based on average usage of 47 therms per month:

·        Increase of $4.36 or 7.8 percent

General rate change from 2013 general rate case

This increase is to recover capital costs related to natural gas pipe replacement:

·        Increase of $0.17 or 0.3 percent

Overall

Residential increase of 8.1 percent with a revised monthly bill from $55.97 to 60.50

Read more about these filings here and here.

 

Washington

Filing

Details

Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA)

Residential customer bills based on average usage of 65 therms per month:

·        Increase of $0.65 or 1.1 percent

·        Revised monthly bill of $61.84

Residential Exchange Program

Residential customer bills based on average usage 965 kilowatt hours per month:

·        Decrease of $1.06 per month or 1.3 percent

·        Revised monthly bill from $80.09 to $79.03

Read more about these filings here.

 

 

Published: 11/3/2014  10:32 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 25 , 2014

By Mike Faulkenberry, Avista Director of Natural Gas

 

You may have read or heard recent national and local media stories about natural gas pipeline safety concerns. At Avista, our top priority is safety for the public and our employees. We’d like to share some important information with you about Avista’s natural gas system.

 

The integrity of our system:

·         Avista does not have any of the cast iron or bare unprotected steel pipes in our natural gas system that were highlighted in a recent USA Today article.

·         Most of Avista’s natural gas pipe was installed in the after the 1950s. It is a much newer system than in other parts of the country. 

·         Avista uses plastic and steel distribution piping that is less susceptible to leaks compared to unprotected bare steel and cast iron pipes.

·         All of Avista's underground natural gas pipelines are periodically walked in a leak survey. Our inspectors search for leaks using highly sensitive equipment that has the ability to detect natural gas leaks at levels far below those that are a safety concern or that you can smell. If any leaks are found, they are documented and any necessary repairs are made.

·         Avista adds an odorant to natural gas that is four-times the level set in the Federal Pipeline Safety Regulations. The odorant, which smells like rotten eggs, allows for leaks to be detected far below hazardous levels. If you think you detect a leak, please leave the area and contact Avista immediately at 1-800-227-9187.

·         Avista takes immediate action to fix all hazardous leaks and repairs non-hazardous leaks expeditiously.

 

Investing in maintaining our system:

·         Along with many other utilities across the country, Avista first began installing natural gas plastic polyethylene pipes during the late 1960’s.  Some of this plastic pipe is approaching the end of its service life, including early vintages of Dupont Aldyl-A.  Avista started to proactively replace its early vintage Aldyl-A pipe in 2012 and continues to do so through a prioritized systematic approach. 

·         The Natural Gas Pipeline Replacement Program is a result of Avista’s commitment to maintain a safe and reliable natural gas pipeline system. Avista will replace approximately 730 miles of Aldyl-A natural gas pipe, installed prior to 1987. We will also perform preventative maintenance on 16,000 service taps over the next 20 years in Washington, Idaho and Oregon.

·         Avista is prioritizing this replacement work based on specific criteria such as age of pipe, soil conditions and population density. Remember, Avista performs regular leak surveys on its entire natural gas pipeline, including Aldyl-A pipe.

·         Manufacturing processes have improved over time. While Aldyl-A pipe may be more prone to cracking than plastic pipe manufactured today, it is not of concern if it was installed properly, and has not been disturbed since installation.  

·         Avista is investing approximately $16 million per year for the next 20 years in our natural gas replacement program. Find out what neighborhoods we’re completing in 2014. Visit www.avistautilities.com/gasprojects for more information.

 

Published: 9/25/2014  4:11 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 15 , 2014

Today, Avista announced that it filed its annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) with the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) that if approved, could decrease natural gas rates for customers in Idaho by an overall 2.1 percent.

 

We’ve seen wholesale natural gas prices that were higher over the past year which was caused, in part, by a colder than normal winter throughout the United States. That colder than normal weather led to a higher level of natural gas usage by Avista’s customers, resulting in higher natural gas revenue, which offset the higher commodity costs.

 

Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA)

The PGA is an annual adjustment that balances the actual cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista with the amount already included in current rates - we do not mark up the cost of natural gas to meet customer needs. We file the PGA each year, and costs can go up or down, based on the cost of wholesale natural gas.

 

Residential Customer Bills Based on Average Usage of 60 Therms a Month

·         Decrease of $1.16 or 2 percent

·         Revised monthly bill of $58.32

·         If the request is approved, it would take effect on Nov. 1, 2014

 

Current Natural Gas Bill

Approximately 55 percent of an Avista customer’s natural gas bill is the cost of purchasing and transporting natural gas and 45 percent of the bill is delivery of natural gas to our customers, by Avista.

 

Read the full news release here. You can also read about the annual Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) filed in Idaho as well as the settlement agreement reached to extend the current rate plan in Idaho.

 

Published: 9/15/2014  1:11 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 12 , 2014

Today, we announced we have filed two annual rate adjustment requests in Washington that, If approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC or Commission), would slightly decrease electric rates and slightly increase natural gas rates.

 

You may recall that we told you about a settlement that we reached in Washington that would raise base retail rates beginning Jan. 1, 2015, if approved, and wonder why we are talking with you about your rates again.

 

The Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) and Residential Exchange Program filings made today are annual adjustment filings and are separate from a general rate case and the settlement agreement reached in Aug. 2014 regarding base retail rates in Washington.

 

Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA)

The PGA is an annual adjustment that balances the actual cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista with the amount already included in current rates - we do not mark up the cost of natural gas to meet customer needs. We are required to file the PGA each year, and costs can go up or down, based on the cost of wholesale natural gas.

 

Residential Exchange Program

The Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) Residential Exchange Program provides a share of the benefits of the federal Columbia River power system to the residential and small farm customers of the investor-owned utilities in the Pacific Northwest. We apply the benefits we receive, which typically fluctuate from year to year, to customers as a credit on their monthly electric bill.

 

In 2014, Avista received a higher level of benefits than it had projected in last year’s rate adjustment.

 

Residential Customer Bills Based on Average Usage

 

Electric – Residential Exchange Program

·         Based on average usage of 965 kilowatt hours per month

·         Decrease of $1.06 per month or 1.3 percent

·         Monthly bill change from $80.09 to $79.03

 

Natural Gas – PGA

·         Based on average usage of 65 therms per month

·         Increase of $0.77 per month or 1.3 percent

·         A revised monthly bill of $61.96

 

Current Natural Gas Bill

Approximately 55 percent of an Avista customer’s natural gas bill is the cost of purchasing and transporting natural gas and 45 percent of the bill is delivery of natural gas to our customers, by Avista.

 

 

Read the news release here.

 

Published: 9/12/2014  1:06 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 02 , 2014

Today, Avista filed a general rate request with the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC) to increase natural gas base rates in Oregon.

 

Base rates are those that cover the total cost of providing natural gas service to customers.

 

This request is driven by the continued investment in the systems and technology we use every day to serve customers.

 

You may recall that we filed a purchased gas cost adjustment (PGA) in Oregon in July 2014. The PGA is an annual adjustment that balances the actual cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista with the amount already included in current rates - we do not mark up the cost of natural gas to meet customer needs. Costs can go up or down, based on the cost of wholesale natural gas.

 

The PGA is filed each year and is required by the PUC. It is separate from a general rate case.

 

Details and Residential Customer Bills Based on Average Usage

Base Rates

·         Overall increase of  9.3 percent

Natural Gas - customer using an average of 47 therms per month

·         Increase of $5.78 per month or 10.3 percent

·         A revised monthly bill of $61.75

·         An increase in the monthly basic charge from $8.00 to $10.00

 

 

Timeline

In Oregon, the PUC has up to 10 months to review and make a decision. During this time, the PUC will review our costs, review relevant data and listen to public testimony. With this information, they will approve rates they feel are reasonable and fair. If approved, new rates would take effect no later than July 2015.

 

What does this look like?

The main drivers of this request include the continued capital investments in natural gas infrastructure and technology. Capital projects that are included in this rate request are described below.

 

Customer Information System and Enterprise Asset Management System

Avista’s customer information system is the foundation of Avista’s day-to-day customer operations. For 20 years, the system has been meeting the needs of our customers and the company, but like pipe and equipment, it needs to be replaced. The system touches all of our customers and supports traditional utility business functions, such as meter reading, customer billing, payment processing, credit, customer service orders and material management.

 

Natural Gas Pipe Replacement

Avista continues a major project to systematically replace portions of natural gas distribution pipe. The project is replacing hundreds of miles of natural gas pipeline that was installed prior to 1987.

 

Learn about the rate-making process here. Read the news release about this request here.

 

Published: 9/2/2014  12:59 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 18 , 2014

Today, Avista announced that a full settlement agreement has been reached in Washington.

 

You may recall we filed a general rate request on Feb. 4, 2014 to increase electric and natural gas base rates in Washington that would support the ongoing need to expand and replace the facilities and equipment we use every day to serve our customers. Facilities like our 106-year-old South Channel Dam in Post Falls, Idaho and 106-year-old Powerhouse in Nine Mile, Washington. This settlement agreement would conclude the rate case and support these efforts.

 

This agreement has the full support of all parties involved in the rate case and is the result of these parties working together to agree on a settlement that is beneficial for our customers and our company.

 

What Does This Mean?

If approved, the proposed settlement agreement would increase electric and natural gas base rates as well as account for new and expiring rebates. Base rates are those that cover the total cost of providing electricity and natural gas service to customers. This includes generating and purchasing energy as well as the delivery of that energy to customers.

 

Here is what this looks like:

 

Item(s)

Details and Results

Base revenues

·         Increase electric by 1.4 percent or $7.0 million

·         Increase natural gas by 5.6 percent or $8.5 million

Expiring rebates

·         Electric customers are currently receiving benefits from two rebates that are reducing monthly energy bills by 2.8 percent during 2014.

·         These rebates will expire at the end of 2014.

New rebates

·         Avista would provide a rebate to customers of $8.6 million over 18 months related to its sale of renewable energy credits, which would partially replace the expiring rebates and reduce customers’ monthly bills by 1.2 percent.

Energy Recovery Mechanism (ERM)

·         A credit of $3.0 million from the existing ERM deferral balance would be returned to electric customers to offset the 2015 rate increase, which would reduce the overall electric billed rate increase from 1.4 percent to 0.8 percent.

LIRAP

·         Funding available for Avista’s Low Income Rate Assistance Program (LIRAP) would increase by $333,000 as a result of the settlement.

The overall change in customer billing rates from the settlement agreement, including the expiring and new rebates is 2.4 percent for electric customers and 5.5 percent for natural gas customers.

 

Residential Customer Bills Based on Average Usage

Electric – residential customer using an average 965 kilowatt hours per month

·         Total billed increase of $2.10 a month or 2.6 percent

·         A revised monthly bill of $82.19

·         An increase in the monthly basic charge from $8.00 to $8.50

 

Natural Gas - customer using an average of 65 therms per month

·         Increase of $3.62 a month or 5.9 percent

·         A revised monthly bill of $64.81

·         An increase in the monthly basic charge from $8.00 to $9.00

 

 

The bill increase for each customer group (e.g. residential, commercial) may differ due to adjustments to better reflect the cost to serve each customer group.

 

The settlement has been filed with and must be approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC or Commission).

 

For more details about the settlement, read the new release here.

 

Learn more about the rate-making process here. You can also watch this video and read this one-sheet.

Published: 8/18/2014  1:07 PM | 1  Comment | 0  Links to this post

Jul 31 , 2014

Today, Avista announced that it filed its annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) and related filings with the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC) that if approved, could increase natural gas rates for customers in Oregon by an overall 10.4 percent. The primary reason for an increase is increased wholesale costs, driven in part by the colder than normal winter across the country.

 

Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA)

The PGA is an annual adjustment that balances the actual cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista with the amount already included in current rates - we do not mark up the cost of natural gas to meet customer needs. We file the PGA each year, and costs can go up or down, based on the cost of wholesale natural gas.

 

Average Customer Bill Impact (Based on average usage of 47 therms per month)

 

If approved, the filing would include:

·         An increase of $5.45 or 9.7 percent

·         A revised monthly bill of $61.42

·         If the request is approved, new rates would take effect on Nov. 1, 2014

 

Current Natural Gas Bill

Approximately 55 percent of an Avista customer’s natural gas bill is the cost of purchasing and transporting natural gas and 45 percent of the bill is delivery of natural gas to our customers, by Avista.

 

Read the full news release.

Published: 7/31/2014  1:52 PM | 2  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 14 , 2014
 

Today, Avista announced that a settlement has been reached to extend the current rate plan in Idaho. The settlement proposes that there would be no increase in base retail rates for customers prior to 2016.

 

What Does This Mean?

The extension of the current rate plan provides rate stability for customers and is the result of a collaborative process. It is an outcome that is beneficial for our customers and the company.

 

This includes:

·         Unchanged base retail rates

·         Maintained level of rebates that customers currently receive

·         The opportunity to balance the recovery of costs of providing safe and reliable energy and the company’s opportunity to earn a fair return

 

Details of the Proposed Settlement

The details of the proposed settlement demonstrate what can be a complex process and topic.

·         Replacement of two rebates that are set to expire on Jan. 1, 2015 that are currently reducing customers’ monthly energy bills by 1.3 percent on the electric side and 1.7 percent on the natural gas side.

·          An estimated $3.7 million increase in pre-tax margin in 2015 for Idaho operations.

·          Deferral of the majority of costs related to completion of Avista’s customer information system upgrades in 2015, as well as a change in the timing of expenses related to operations and maintenance (O&M) costs pertaining to its Colstrip and Coyote Springs 2 thermal generating facilities.

·          Use of any deferral balance resulting from the 2014 Idaho earnings test to support up to a 9.5 percent return on equity (ROE) in 2015.

·          If the company earns more than its currently authorized 9.8 percent ROE in 2015, 50 percent of the earnings above 9.8 percent would be deferred for future ratemaking.

 

PGA and PCA Adjustments

The proposed settlement applies to base rates. Avista will file annual rate adjustments including the Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) and Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA). These adjustments balance the actual costs of purchasing or generating energy and natural gas to serve customers and the amounts currently covered in rates, and are typically filed in the third quarter every year.

 

The settlement has been filed with and must be approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC or Commission).

 

Read the announcement news release.
Published: 7/14/2014  1:07 PM | 1  Comment | 0  Links to this post

Feb 12 , 2014
 
Posted by Debbie Simock
 
Inland Northwest homes and businesses typically see highest energy bills of the year in January and February. And this year isn’t any different as we have seen a long winter heating season. With sustained cold temperatures, heating systems run longer and work harder to keep the temperature at the level set on the thermostat which increases energy use.
 
In addition to energy use, the number of days in a billing cycle will also have an impact on energy bills. The average number of days in a billing cycle is 31, but it can range from 28 to 34 depending on the number of days in a month and any holidays. The number of days in a customer’s billing cycle is displayed on each monthly bill.
 
Heating and cooling a home can make up as much as half of annual energy use, so taking steps in winter to keep the warm air inside the home and the cold air outside can help manage energy use. Some easy ways to get started include:
Set your thermostat to 68 degrees and lower it to 63 at night and when leaving the house. If you have a heat pump as the main heating source, a two to three degree setback is what is recommended. Installing a programmable thermostat will let you set it and forget it.
 
- Seal air leaks by installing door sweeps on exterior doors or putting a towel at the bottom of the door, caulking around windows and exterior doors, and installing foam insulators behind switch plates and outlet covers on exterior walls.
 
- Clean or replace furnace filters regularly. And, keep vents clear of obstructions.
 
- Electric space heaters are more efficient when used to heat a smaller occupied space or in a common area that is generally cooler than the rest of the house. 
 
- Limit using an open fireplace when it is extremely cold because the fireplace will draw heated air from your home and send it up the chimney.
 
Additional, there are low- and no-cost energy efficiency information, including rebates and incentives available for customers. You can also access tools that provide a month-to-month comparison of their bills with details on factors impacting each bill and other helpful information, such as a graph on two-year energy consumption.
 
Published: 2/12/2014  10:13 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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