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Mar 21 , 2012
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
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Post by Dan Kolbet

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.
Published: 3/21/2012  2:52 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

Aug 31 , 2011
 
If you’re a regular reader of the blog, you know that we talk a lot about rates – it’s a topic we know is important to you. So we wanted to update you on a filing Avista made today for a slight decrease in natural gas rates for our Oregon customers.

This time of year Avista and other natural gas utilities in our region file what we call a PGA – Purchase Gas Cost Adjustment – with the public utility commissions. These required annual filings balance the cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista to serve customers with the amount included in rates.

Earlier this month we filed the annual PGA in Idaho, and we’ll be filing in mid-September in Washington. The adjustment varies by state, and depending on a number of factors it could be a decrease, increase or no change at all.

Find out more in our news release about our annual filing in Oregon today. If you have a question about rates, post a comment and we’ll be glad to get back with you.
 
 
Published: 8/31/2011  3:05 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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

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