May 19 , 2011
Video showcase
Post by Dan Kolbet

WA electric rate case components
We created the above videos to help showcase some of the projects and pieces of infrastructure that are included in our recent rate filing in Washington. These filings can be complicated and I personally like seeing the visuals.

The first video, called Reliability and the Cost of Your Energy, focuses on infrastructure, which means ensuring you have reliable power. There are also videos that feature renewable hydropower projects at Nine Mile Falls and Noxon Rapids dams.

I also included a video I shot last year near Potlatch, Idaho. It isn’t directly tied to the Washington rate case, but it shows the extent a wind event can have on Avista’s infrastructure. The audio quality is pretty terrible thanks to the wind, so hang in there when you watch it.

Also in there is a video that explains how general rate cases work. And a safety video about how we work with first responders and natural gas.

The graphic to the right shows how the proposed Washington electric increase breaks down. We don’t have a graphic for the natural gas portion of the case, but a good deal of it is to recover the cost of a portion of the gas stored in the Jackson Prairie Storage facility.

If you have any questions about the rate case, send us an e-mail.
Published: 5/19/2011  9:36 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 11 , 2011
April is Safe Digging Month, according to the highest ranking officials in our area

Post by Dan Kolbet

The ground is no longer frozen, and in some parts of the Northwest, the grass is turning green again. Spring is fighting to immerge from a perpetual winter. But with the warmer weather comes the reminder that you’ve got a laundry list of yardwork projects to complete before the snow falls again. Those yard projects may just involve digging some holes in the ground – safely.

The governors of Idaho, Oregon and Washington have proclaimed April to be “Safe Digging Month.” Unfortunately it’s not a national holiday, and no, you can’t take off work to celebrate, but 811 is a free national number that you can call from any location.

Local media tweet about digging into a gas line.

I saw this tweet from KHQ earlier today. Seems fitting to go
with this post.

These official proclamations are a good reminder that pipes, cables and power lines can be buried dangerously close to the surface, and one dig with a shovel or backhoe could strike a natural gas or electric line. It’s not only the smart and safe thing to do to call 811 at least two working days before you plan to dig, it’s the law.

Click here to view a PDF scan of the state proclamations.

Just plan ahead a few days to ensure your safety and a the timely completion of your digging project.
 
Published: 4/11/2011  3:56 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 14 , 2011
Post by Dan Kolbet
Back in early February we posted that Avista had reached a settlement agreement regarding our natural gas rate case in Oregon. The Oregon PUC has now approved that settlement. See the details in the news release below.
 
Avista Receives Approval to Adjust Natural Gas Rates in Oregon
The Public Utility Commission of Oregon approves all-party settlement agreement
 
Avista received approval from the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC) on the all-party settlement, concluding the company’s natural gas rate case in Oregon. New customer rates will be implemented in two phases: effective March 15, 2011, and June 1, 2011. Avista made the request to the PUC on Sept. 30, 2010, followed by an all-party settlement agreement on Jan. 31, 2011. The order will result in an overall increase in billed rates of 3.1 percent.

A residential customer using an average of 46 therms per month can expect to see an increase of about $1.31 per month, or 2.3 percent, for a revised monthly bill of approximately $59.45, effective March 15. Included in the rate change is an increase in the monthly basic charge from $6.50 to $7.00. On June 1, an increase of about $0.63 per month, or 1.1 percent, will become effective for a revised monthly bill of about $60.08. Overall rate increases for commercial and industrial customers vary between 0.6 percent and 3.3 percent, depending on the rate schedule.

The order sets Avista’s rate of return on rate base at 8.0 percent, with a common equity ratio of 50 percent and a 10.10 percent return on equity. Revenues are expected to increase by approximately $2.0 million effective March 15 and by approximately $1.0 million effective June 1 for an overall $2.975 million to recover expenses and capital investments made by Avista to its distribution system to ensure the safe, reliable delivery of natural gas to over 95,000 Oregon customers.

“Avista is committed to providing our customers with the safe, reliable energy they need at a fair price,” said Dennis Vermillion, president of Avista Utilities. “We are pleased the Commission recognized the need for our retail rates to reflect the increased costs necessary to operate and maintain our natural gas delivery system.”

The order also provides for deferred accounting treatment for two capital additions – the second phase of the Roseburg Reinforcement Project and the Medford Integrity Management Pipe Replacement Project - to be completed by Nov. 1, 2011, and the opportunity for a subsequent rate adjustment of approximately $0.6 million on June 1, 2012, to recover the prudently incurred costs for the two projects.

Customer Assistance
To help customers manage their energy use and costs, Avista offers a number of energy efficiency programs for residential, commercial and industrial customers. In 2010, over $950,000 in energy efficiency incentives and rebates were returned to Oregon customers.

In addition to support for energy assistance programs like Project Share, Avista also 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.
Published: 3/14/2011  1:37 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Feb 01 , 2011
Agreement also filed on 2009 state tax report that would provide continued refund to customers under Oregon SB 408
 

This morning Avista and all other parties involved in the company’s natural gas general rate case filing announced they have reached a settlement agreement that, if approved by the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC), would result in an overall increase in billed rates of 3.1 percent.

If the settlement agreement is approved, a residential customer using an average of 46 therms per month could expect to see an increase of about $1.31 per month, or 2.3 percent, for a revised monthly bill of approximately $59.45, effective March 15. Included in the rate change is an increase in the monthly basic charge from $6.50 to $7.00. On June 1, an increase of about $0.63 per month, or 1.1 percent, would become effective for a revised monthly bill of about $60.08. Overall rate increases for commercial and industrial customers vary between 0.6 percent and 3.3 percent, depending on the rate schedule.

The settlement agreement sets Avista’s rate of return on rate base at 8.0 percent, with a common equity ratio of 50 percent and a 10.10 percent return on equity. Revenues are expected to increase by approximately $2.0 million effective March 15 and by approximately $1.0 million effective June 1 for an overall $2.975 million to recover expenses and capital investments made by Avista to its distribution system to ensure the safe, reliable delivery of natural gas to over 95,000 Oregon customers.

“We are pleased that the parties were able to reach a joint recommendation to the commission that resolves all the issues in this case and that is in the best interest of our customers and shareholders,” said Dennis Vermillion, president of Avista Utilities.

The settlement agreement also provides for deferred accounting treatment for two capital additions – the second phase of the Roseburg Reinforcement Project and the Medford Integrity Management Pipe Replacement Project - to be completed by Nov. 1, 2011, and for a subsequent rate adjustment of approximately $0.6 million on June 1, 2012, to recover the prudently incurred costs for the two projects.

In a separate action today, Avista filed a stipulation agreement with the PUC that, if approved, would refund $1.2 million to customers as a result of revised 2009 tax calculations based on Oregon’s Senate Bill 408. The bill requires that most Oregon public utilities file an annual tax report on the amount of taxes paid by the utility compared with the amount of taxes collected through customer rates.

If the stipulation agreement is approved, customers would continue to receive a refund rate of about 1 percent which is similar to the refund rate that is currently being passed back to customers.

In addition to Avista, the parties to both the general rate case settlement agreement and the Senate Bill 408 stipulation agreement are the staff of the Oregon PUC, the Citizens’ Utility Board and the Northwest Industrial Gas Users. The PUC is not bound by either settlement agreement.
 
Customer Assistance
To help customers manage their energy use and costs, Avista offers a number of energy efficiency programs for residential, commercial and industrial customers. In 2010, over $950,000 in energy efficiency incentives and rebates were returned to Oregon customers.

In addition to support for energy assistance programs like Project Share, Avista also 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.
Published: 2/1/2011  8:34 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Dec 01 , 2010
Rates video - click to play
 
We’ve been writing about rates all year
 
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
The conclusion of Avista’s General Rate cases in Washington begins today as new rates for electricity and natural gas become effective.
 
The rate cases were originally filed way back in March. An all-party settlement was reached in August that was approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission in November.
 
General rate cases can take up to 11 months to come to a resolution in Washington, 7 months in Idaho and 10 months in Oregon. All year we updated this blog when key events occurred in the rate-adjustment process. Here’s a few posts to check out regarding rates activities in Washington, Idaho and Oregon this year.
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
 
Published: 12/1/2010  12:06 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 30 , 2010
Natural gas crews install a gas pipeline.
Avista crews install a natural gas pipeline. Today's
rate request is focused on portion of the bill that
recovers Avista’s cost of delivering natural gas.

If you’re a natural gas customer in Oregon, you may be confused about why Avista requested a rate decrease in late August and today we requested an increase.

It comes down to the two portions that make up a natural gas bill, whether you’re a customer in Oregon, Washington or Idaho. About 65 percent of an Avista customer’s natural gas bill is the cost of the natural gas used during the month. The remaining 35 percent is Avista’s cost of delivering that natural gas to customers – the pipes and people.

The August filing in Oregon was Avista’s annual request - called a Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment or PGA - to true-up the cost of natural gas purchased over the year to meet customer needs. The request was for a 2.1 percent, or $1.25, decrease that impacts the natural gas portion of a monthly bill – the 65 percent. If approved by the Public Utility Commission of Oregon, or PUC, the lower rate would take effect Nov. 1, in time for winter.

Today’s request was for an overall 5.6 percent increase in the portion of the bill that recovers Avista’s cost of delivering the natural gas – the 35 percent portion. If the request is approved by the PUC, a residential customer using an average 46 therms a month would see a $3.71 increase, or 6.2 percent, increase sometimes in the first half of 2011. Read more in the news release and watch a video to learn about what makes up a rate case.

The bottom line is we expect the net result of these two requests will be about a 4 percent increase, if both are approved. If so, your natural gas rates will still be comparable to those in 2004.

You’re probably wondering why Avista doesn’t make all rate adjustments at the same time. We do that whenever we can, but it isn’t always possible. For example, some filings are mandated by the state utility commissions to be submitted at specific times of the year, while other filings depend on issues facing the company.

No matter what the timing, we’ll let you know about rates activity that impacts you. You can let us know what you’re thinking about rates or any other topic that’s on your mind by posting a comment in the block below or sending us an email at conversation@avistautilities.com.
Published: 9/30/2010  4:08 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 31 , 2010

Does it seem like Avista is in the news every week about some type of rate change? Earlier this month we told you about the settlement agreement in the Washington electric and natural gas rate requests we filed last March, and the end of July we told you about the settlement agreement in the Idaho cases we also filed in March.

Today a different type of Avista rate request is in the news – the annual Purchase Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) that we filed with the public utility commission in Oregon. Avista and other natural gas utilities in the Northwest typically file these requests each fall to true-up the difference between the costs of wholesale natural gas purchased to serve customers with the amount included in rates. PGAs have no impact on company earnings, since the cost of the natural gas is passed through to customers without being marked up.

Wholesale natural gas prices go up or down depending on market conditions, so some years the PGA may mean a rate increase to customers and some years a decrease in rates. Last year natural prices decreased by 21 percent for our Oregon customers and by about 30 percent for our Washington and Idaho customers. Robust natural gas supplies and lower demand caused the steep decline in wholesale natural gas prices that we passed on to our customers.

Today we requested to decrease natural gas prices for our Oregon customers by another 2.1 percent, effective on November 1. Since Avista is a regulated utility, any change in customer rates, including a decrease, must be thoroughly reviewed and approved by the state’s utility commission.

We’d like to hear what you think about natural gas prices or any other topic that’s on your mind. Post a comment in the block below or send us an email at conversation@avistautilities.com.
Published: 8/31/2010  1:08 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 08 , 2010
Follow Jessie on Twitter: @AvistaCares

Avista Foundation
One of the best parts of working at Avista – and there are many – is getting to write about how our company partners with community organizations to improve the health and well-being of people who live in our service territory. If you’ve been reading this blog for any length of time, you’ve seen some of my posts on topics like our CEO’s direct involvement in United Way, our employees’ generous giving to Tom’s Turkey Drive at Thanksgiving, as well as clothing and food banks, just to name a couple of examples.

There’s another way that we partner with the communities we serve – through grants from the Avista Foundation (www.avistafoundation.org). The Foundation just completed its second round of donations for 2010. There are always more requests than dollars to support them. That’s why the Foundation’s board of directors carefully studies each request, makes sure the organization is sound and assures the request falls within the guidelines for giving, namely for K-12 education and higher education particularly in the fields of science, math and technology; for assistance to those on limited incomes and for initiatives to reduce poverty; and for projects that help communities and citizens to grow and prosper.

One grant made this quarter will help support a job training program in Spokane for low income and homeless women. The New Leaf Bakery-Café provides job training opportunities for low income and homeless women so they can gain work readiness skills to overcome the barriers to mainstream employment. Tell me more.

Another grant will help complete a new roof at Alliance House in Moscow, Idaho, a place that houses people with severe mental illness, giving them a safe place to live. Tell me more.

And the Foundation also made a grant to Kids Unlimited of Oregon, in Medford, Ore., to support the renovation of a building to house evening, weekend and summer programs so low income kids are more likely to stay and finish their educations. Tell me more.

The people who benefit from these and the other programs receiving grants from the Avista Foundation are your neighbors. They are part of the fabric of our community. We’re pleased that we can be part of weaving the threads together for stronger, more livable communities for everyone.
 
Published: 6/8/2010  3:38 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jun 02 , 2010

Patriot award presentation

Col. Richard McReynolds (far right) and Sgt. Ken Heywood (right)
present the Patriot Award to Dennis Vermillion, Scott Morris and
John Schwendener (left to right).
Post by Sarah Hilbert
 
Avista was awarded the Employer Support of the Guard and Reserve (ESGR) Patriot Award last month in Medford, Oregon. Sgt. Ken Heywood, an Avista Medford Operations Inspector, and Col. Richard McReynolds, the Southern Oregon Area Four Chairperson with the ESGR Oregon Committee presented the award to Medford Area Coordinator John Schwendener.

The Patriot Award is an award not all employers receive or deserve. The award is given to employers who employ civilian soldiers and support them in times of deployment or annual training. Continuing benefits and salary play a major role in the success of civilian soldiers.

According to the ESGR website, “The ESGR is a Department of Defense organization that seeks to promote a culture in which all American Employers support and value the military service of their employees.”

Heywood nominated Avista for the Patriot Award based on his experiences as a soldier in the National Guard.

“I nominated Avista because of the understanding I received when I was activated and sent to Louisiana for the Hurricane Katrina relief efforts and for understanding that I may have to perform duties on short notice,” Heywood said.

“Another reason was because Avista continues a military salary and benefits, understanding that we, as soldiers don’t make a lot of money. We do this ultimate job for our country because we want to, not because we have to. In the past 21 years of my service to our state and country, I have had some employers that were less than understanding. It means a lot to have a company that understands what it means to be a civilian soldier.”

Congratulations and special thanks to Sgt. Heywood and all who have served our country.
 
Published: 6/2/2010  8:41 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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