Apr 02 , 2012
We need to invest about $250 million each year over the next five years to continue updating and maintaining our system to serve our customers’ energy needs
The new Noxon Rapids Dam Unit 4 turbine is
lowered into place earlier this year. This 4-year,
$45-million project is coming to a close in 2012.
An employee works to replace old wooden poles
(left) with a new steel structure (right). Steel
structures are more expensive, but typically last
longer than wooden ones.
A line crew runs a new, higher-gauge power lines
over a two block distance in downtown Spokane.
Work like this ensures a more reliable system
that’s ready when you need it.
An employee wears protective gear while using a
grinder at a natural gas job site in Spokane
Valley. We do our best to work safely on the
system that delivers you energy.
Today Avista filed requests with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission
to increase overall net electric rates by 5.9 percent, and natural gas rates by 6.8 percent in Washington only. The UTC has up to 11 months to review the filings and issue a decision.
What does this mean to you? If you’re an Avista electric customer in Washington with average use and the Commission approves the requests, you would see an increase of $4.94 per month or about 16 cents a day, for a revised bill of $83.91. If you’re a natural gas customer in Washington with average use, you would see an increase of $4.23, or about 14 cents a day, for a revised monthly bill of $65.78.
So why is Avista asking for more rate increases? The simple answer is that it costs more each year to provide safe, reliable energy to you. Meeting our customers’ energy needs reliably and responsibly, while still complying with state and federal requirements, is our first obligation, even when it costs more.
About 40 percent of your electric bill and 35 percent of your natural gas bill covers the cost of delivery – the equipment and people needed to provide safe, reliable energy service to you. Maintaining and updating our generation plants (some that are more than 100 years old) and substations, along with more than 18,000 miles of power lines, a quarter of a million poles, and nearly 8,000 miles of gas pipeline, is a big job that doesn’t stop, and one that costs more each year. When we replace or update old equipment with new equipment and technology, it costs many times more than when it was installed. It’s much like when you update your older home or vehicle. Imagine replacing flooring, cabinets and appliances in a kitchen built 40 years ago, and how much more those items cost today than they did in the 1970s.
This was the primary reason for the proposed increase in our last request and we expect it to continue to cause a need for increased rates in the future. We’ll need to invest about $250 million each year over the next five years to continue updating and maintaining our system to serve our customers’ energy needs. And, while our customers still pay some of the lowest prices in the northwest, we’re not the only utility facing rising costs and an aging system.
Keeping rates increases as low as possible
Even so, we work hard to manage our own costs and keep rate increases as low as possible. In the filings, Avista proposed a proposed one-year Energy Recovery Mechanism bill decrease, which is a rebate to customers based on power supply costs, to help offset the increase. About 60 percent of a customer’s electric bill and 65 percent of a natural gas bill is the cost of generating or purchasing electricity and purchasing natural gas to meet customer needs. Power supply costs were lower in 2011, due to factors such as declining natural gas prices and favorable hydroelectric conditions.
We also proposed through this request to help ease the burden of the increase on low-income customers with increased funding for Avista’s energy assistance programs.
Don’t forget, Avista offers services for customers such as comfort level billing, payment arrangements and Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Services (CARES), which provides assistance to special-needs customers through referrals to area agencies and churches for help with housing, utilities, medical assistance and other needs. To learn more, visit www.avistautilities.com
Executive salaries in Wash. rates aren’t going up
So what about executive salaries, and how much do the salaries and incentives of our executive officers affect your rates? Not as much as you might think. Avista has proposed that the amount of executive officer salaries and incentives included in rates remain at their 2011 levels.
Approximately 25% of total officer salary and incentives is included in Washington retail rates, which makes up less than ½ a penny of every dollar you pay in rates. This adds up to about 40 cents of your monthly bill if you’re an electric customer with average use, and less than 75 cents if you get both electric and natural gas service. The bottom line is executive salaries aren’t driving energy costs up, rather it’s the rising costs of doing business and taking care of our system.
We realize in these difficult economic times it can be a struggle for people to pay their energy bills. We’ll keep working to reduce costs and improve efficiency while continuing to provide reliable, responsible energy at some of the lowest prices in the Northwest.
Apr 02 , 2012
April is National Call Before You Dig month
"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.
Mar 23 , 2012
46 new trail lights a result of new natural gas pipeline serving Clarkston area
The lights on the left are a few of the 46 new lights
Avista installed on the Greenbelt Trail in Clarkston.
Avista recently installed the last of 46 safety lights along the Greenbelt Trail in Clarkston, Wash. The new lights turn on at dusk and help illuminate the popular recreation area. The project was born out of Avista’s new 2.8-mile natural gas pipeline extension in the Lewiston-Clarkston Valley that will help reinforce gas service to Avista customers in the Clarkston area.
In order to install the new pipeline, Avista needed access to land managed by the Army Corp of Engineers. As in-kind consideration in lieu of fees for conducting this project, Avista agreed to install 46 lights along the trail from Chestnut Beach to Swallows Boat Ramp parking lot, at an approximate cost of $71,500.
“The new natural gas pipeline in Clarkston is great for the reliability of our service to customers in the area,” said Avista Regional Business Manager Mike Tatko. “But the Greenbelt Trail lighting project is another very visible benefit to Avista customers and all area residents who use the trail."
The natural gas pipeline project began in mid-July 2011 and was in service by December 2011, just in time to provide heat to homes and businesses during the colder winter months. The lighting work began in December 2011 and was completed on March 16, 2012.
Avista owns and will maintain the lights along the trail.
Mar 21 , 2012
Avista worked with crews for Northern Pipeline to relocate almost 2,000 feet of six-inch high pressure main in White City, Oregon over the last month. Work like this helps create reliable service for Avista natural gas customers.
This particular project, which shows your rate dollars at work, is estimated to cost around $250,000. These photos show some of the progress happening in the shadow of Mt. McLoughlin.
Mar 20 , 2012
Today is the first day of Spring and right about the time most people start thinking about projects in the yard. (Disregard these crazy "yard work thoughts" if you saw snow in your yard today).
Before you start any project that requires digging, be sure to call 811 two days before you dig to locate underground utility lines. In 2011, there were 7.9 dig-ins on Avista’s natural gas system for every 1,000 locates, as compared to the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal for 2012 is to reduce the number of dig-ins by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce company costs.
It’s only three numbers; you can handle it – just call 811.
Mar 15 , 2012
Crews brave the cold to bring reliable service to you in $1.4 million project
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
Much of this blog post was originally posted on Jan. 6 and 18.
Mar 05 , 2012
A first-hand account of my experience with Avista's home energy audit program
The blower door test detects excess air escaping and entering
For about the same price as you’d pay for a nice dinner out or a ski lift ticket on Mount Spokane, you can purchase an in-home energy audit if you live within Spokane County. Sure, dinner or skiing sounds like much more fun, but a home energy audit provides a lot of advantages, some obvious and some not so obvious. Here are five reasons why you should consider signing up for an audit with Avista Utilities. I just had my audit done last weekend, and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results.
1. A home energy audit can save your life. If your home uses natural gas or propane, the certified home energy contractor may find safety hazards, such as an appliance or furnace that produces unsafe levels of carbon monoxide. Peace of mind is priceless and it’s always nice to know if your home passes the test or not.
2. For as low as $49, you get a tremendous amount of value
out of a home energy audit. Not only does a professional certified contractor inspect your home, but after the audit you get a box full of energy efficiency goodies from Avista. (see photo) Our home energy auditors were BPI Certified,
which is the standard for all Avista in-home energy audit contractors.
3. What you find out may surprise you. Home energy pros can find problems and opportunities that you might miss – even if you are a devoted energy saver, the pros have equipment that finds problems that might otherwise have gone unnoticed such as pesky leaks in your home’s ductwork.
4. The blower door test is as cool as it sounds. Oh my goodness, you will be shocked by how many air leaks this technology detects in your home. The blower door is a tool that depressurizes your home and stimulates a 20 mph wind blowing on all surfaces of your home simultaneously. This causes outside air to rush through holes in your home’s exterior envelope. The largest air leak in my home was coming from the flue vent in our unfinished basement. We can easily remedy that by capping the vent. Something we never would have thought of before this audit. Outlets and light switches are also a common culprit. Avista provides outlet and light switch insulators in the goody box provided to you at the end of your audit.
With every home energy audit, you get a
box full of items that will help you
improve your homes energy efficiency.
5. Knowledge is the key to savings.
Ever wonder how your energy use compares to others? After your in-home audit, you get a detailed report in the mail about your homes energy use as well as helpful recommendations on what you can do to increase the energy efficiency of your home. In my opinion, this is one of the most valuable pieces of information a homeowner can have. The recommendations will help me prioritize my home improvement projects for years to come.
Are you ready to maximize your energy efficiency? Good! Find out if your home qualifies for the in-home energy audit here.
You can also find more information about Avista’s energy efficiency programs at everylittlebit.com.
Once you have registered for the In-Home Energy Audit, completed the Online Home Energy Analyzer, and your payment has been received by Avista, a representative from one of Avista’s certified home energy auditing contractors will call you within 10 business days of the receipt of your payment to schedule your in-home energy audit.
The popular program is ending in September so make sure to sign up for an audit by August 15.
Mar 01 , 2012
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.
Feb 24 , 2012
If you’re a fan of the Discovery Channel’s “American Chopper
; Senior vs. Junior” or you just like to ride, mark your calendar for May 18 and 19 when the 811 Prevention Bike will be in Spokane thanks to a partnership between Avista and the Inland Empire Utility Coordinating Council (IEUCC).
The 811 bike was created by Paul Jr. Designs for One Call Concepts, Inc. as a unique way to promote the message of damage prevention and call before you dig. The construction of the bike will be featured on Feb. 20 and Feb. 27 episodes of the popular “American Chopper” reality television show. Air times are 6 p.m. with a repeat at 8 p.m.
Avista been working with the 811 bike owners to bring it to Spokane at no cost. This will be one of the first national public appearances of the bike since it was unveiled last fall at a damage prevention training conference in Maryland.
Plans are for the 811 bike to be on display at the May 18 Spokane Shock game, followed by the Spokane Lilac Festival Torchlight Parade and car show on May 19. In addition to being on hand at all events with the bike with 811 Call Before You Dig information, Avista employees will also be transporting the bike in the Lilac Parade on a company vehicle.
In 2011, there were 7.9 dig-ins on Avista’s natural gas system for every 1,000 locates, as compared to the national average of 3.7. Avista’s goal for 2012 is to reduce the number of dig-ins by 10 percent to increase public safety and reduce company costs. Bringing the 811 Prevention Bike to Spokane for high-profile community events is one way that we can share the importance of calling before beginning any project that involves digging.
We’ll keep you posted as more plans for the 811 bike are firmed up.
Watch the Feb. 27 episode of "American Chopper" featuring the 811 call before you dig bike at 6 p.m. on the Discovery Channel with a repeat at 8 p.m.
Feb 13 , 2012
An Avista natural gas crew installs a new length of
pipeline in January 2012.
Avista announced today that it has filed a request to lower overall natural gas prices for customers in Washington (6.4%) and Idaho (6%). Just like at your local gas station, the price for natural gas ebbs and flows. Unlike your local gas station, Avista only changes its prices once or twice a year with the approval of the state utility commission. If approved by the commission, the lower rate would be effective March 1.
Below is our news release that details the filing. We’re talking about this filing on our Facebook page, www.facebook.com/avistautilities
. We welcome your comments.
Avista requests lower natural gas prices for Washington and Idaho customers
Avista today filed Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) requests with the utility commissions in Washington and Idaho to reduce overall natural gas prices by 6.4 percent and 6.0 percent respectively, to be effective March 1.
If the request is approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), a residential customer in Washington using an average of 67 therms per month would see a decrease of $3.90, or 6.0 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $60.73. Washington commercial customers could expect decreases of 7.6 percent for large general service schedule 111, 8.2 percent for extra large general service schedule 121 and 9.5 percent for interruptible sales service schedule 131.
If the request is approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC), an Idaho customer using an average of 62 therms per month would see a $3.46, or 5.7 percent, decrease for a revised monthly bill of $57.50. Idaho commercial customers could expect decreases of 7.3 percent for large general service schedule 111 and 9.7 percent for interruptible sales service schedule 131. Avista has approximately 149,000 natural gas customers in Washington and 76,000 in Idaho.
“We know many of our customers are concerned about expenses in this economy, and we want to pass these price decreases on to them as quickly as we can,” said Dennis Vermillion, president of Avista Utilities. “The increase in natural gas supply, along with continuing soft demand, is creating the current environment of falling natural gas prices.”
PGA filings are usually made annually in the fall to pass through changes in the cost of natural gas Avista acquires to serve customers. The direct cost of natural gas makes up about 65 percent of an Avista customer’s bill, and this cost can fluctuate up and down based on market prices. Given the decline in wholesale natural gas prices, Avista is proposing to decrease the natural gas rates our customers pay to better reflect current market prices for natural gas. The remaining 35 percent of a customer’s bill covers the cost of delivering the natural gas to customers – the equipment and people needed to provide safe and reliable delivery of service. These costs are changed with state approval of a general rate case request.
Avista does not mark up the cost of natural gas that is purchased to meet customer needs. These changes in natural gas costs and the PGA rate adjustments do not increase or decrease Avista’s earnings.
If approved by the WUTC, overall revenues from Washington customers would decrease by $9.9 million, and if approved by the IPUC, overall revenues from Idaho customers would decrease by $4.1 million.
Avista’s rate applications are proposals, subject to public review and a decision by the WUTC and the IPUC. Copies of the applications are available for public review at the offices of the WUTC and the IPUC, as well as at Avista, and they are available on the WUTC’s website at utc.wa.gov
and the IPUC's website at puc.idaho.gov
. The commissions will begin a review of Avista's applications and will seek public input on the company's request.