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 | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 30 , 2014

Today, Avista announced we have filed two annual rate adjustment requests in Idaho including the the Power Cost Adjustment (PCA) and the Bonneville Power Administration (BPA) Residential Exchange Program. If approved, these filings would increase electric rates beginning Oct. 1, 2014.

 

You may recall that we told you about a settlement that we reached in Idaho that would not raise base retail rates through a general rate case in Idaho prior to Jan. 1, 2016.

 

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 PCA is used to track one piece of base rates - the actual costs for generating and purchasing electric power to serve customers.

The PCA and Residential Exchange Program filings are annual adjustment filings which occur outside of a general rate case.

 

Power Cost Adjustment (PCA)

The PCA is an annual rate adjustment 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.

 

·         Power supply costs were higher in 2013 due primarily to increased fuel costs and power purchase expense, some of which was required to replace the energy lost due to an outage at Unit #4 at the our Colstrip Generating Plant.

·         Part of the proposed PCA rate adjustment is related to the expiration of a rebate to customers. Beginning in October 2013, Avista began passing through to customers a one-year rebate of approximately $4.6 million related to last year’s PCA. That rebate will end Sept. 30, 2014.

·         The proposed PCA would pass through to customers $7.8 million in increased power supply costs that occurred over the last 12 months.

 

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.

 

The benefit Avista will receive from BPA starting in Oct. 2014 will be higher than the current level of benefits currently being passed through to applicable customers.

 

Customer Bill Impact (Based on average usage of 930 kilowatt hours per month)

The results of the PCA and Residential Exchange Program filings would include:

 

·         Increase of $3.45 or 4.2 percent per month

·         Revised monthly bill from $81.88 to $85.33

·         If the filing requests are approved, the changes would take effect on Oct. 1, 2014

 

Read the news release here.

 

Published: 7/30/2014  4:04 PM | 0  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 | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Feb 04 , 2014

Today, Avista filed a request with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (commission) to increase rates for electric and natural gas customers in Washington. Avista has not filed a general rate request in Washington since April 2012. If approved, the new rates would take effect beginning Jan. 1, 2015. Here are the details about the request:

 

Electric

The filing includes:

·         a request for a 3.8 percent increase in base revenues for capital investments

·         the expiration of two rebates customers are currently receiving that are reducing monthly electric bills by 2.8 percent

·         the proposal of a new rebate that would reduce customer bills by 1.1 percent

·         a request to increase the monthly basic charge from $8 to $15

 

These rebates are passed through to customers on a dollar-for-dollar basis and do not increase or decrease the company’s earnings.

Bill impact:

The bill impact for a customer using an average of 965 kilowatt hours per month would be, if approved:

·         A total billed increase of $4.89 per month or 6.1 percent

·         A revised monthly bill of $84.98

 

Natural Gas

The filing includes:

·         a request for an increase in base revenues of 8.1 percent

·         a request to increase the monthly basic charge from $8 to $12

 

 

Bill impact:

 The bill impact for a customer using an average of 65 therm per months would be, if approved:

·         A total billed increase of $5.23 per month or 8.5 percent

·         A revised monthly bill of $66.42

 

Timing

This request will take time to be approved. In Washington, this can take up to 11 months, during which time the commission will thoroughly review Avista’s request and costs as well as relevant data and take public comments. Once reviewed, the commission will approve rates they feel are reasonable and fair.

 

The cost of energy and customer rates

 

The main driver in filing the requests is the continuing need to expand and replace the facilities and equipment we use every day to serve you, our customer. We expect capital investments of $335 million in 2014, up from $280 million in 2013. These investments include upgrades and maintenance of generation facilities, transmission and distribution equipment, natural gas pipe and information technology upgrades.

 

Keeping rates fair and reasonable for our customers is a key part of our decision making. It’s a balance. The cost of energy continues to rise, as does the cost to generate and distribute this energy.

 

What does this investment look like?

 

Below are some capital projects that are included in the rate request.

 

Post Falls South Channel Dam Project

Beginning spring 2014, Avista will upgrade the 106-year-old South Channel Dam, one of three dams that make up the Post Falls Hydroelectric Development. The project includes:

·         replacing the original concrete on the structure that helps control water levels of  Lake Coeur d’Alene and parts of the three rivers

·         installing new electronic gates and hoists

·         installing new electrical and controls to automate the opening and closing of the spillway gates, increasing efficiencies and reducing cost

 

This work will increase reliability and preserve the life of this important generation resource.

 

 

Nine Mile Powerhouse Project

We are in the midst of a multi-year project to rehabilitate the Nine Mile Powerhouse, also 106-years-old. . The project will replace original generators, turbines and other equipment that will increase the generation of clean, renewable, low-cost power. 

 

 

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

Published: 2/4/2014  12:27 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 15 , 2013
Gas Crews at Work
 
 
Today, Avista filed a request with the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC) to increase natural gas rates by an overall 9.8 percent. The last time we requested a general rate increase in Oregon was in 2010. You can read more about the request in our news release that was issued today.
 
If the request is approved and you are a residential customer using an average of 48 therms a month, you would see a $6.17 a month increase for a revised monthly bill of $64.17. The PUC has up to 10 months to review the request which seeks to recover capital investments Avista made in updating certain natural gas pipe and to update the technology that is the backbone of our customer information system. These investments will allow for the continued safe and reliable delivery of natural gas to our customers.
 
Assistance is Available
 
The economy is still challenging, so let us know if you need a helping hand. Energy assistance programs, including CARES representatives, and payment options to help qualifying customers are available. Our CARES reps are specially-trained employees who provide referrals to area agencies and churches for customers with special needs for help with housing, utilities, medical assistance, and other needs. Visit us at www.avistautilities.com for more information. There you’ll also find information on energy efficiency programs, including rebates, incentives and tips that can help you manage energy use.
 

 
Published: 8/15/2013  4:18 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 27 , 2013
Posted by Debbie Simock
 
Idaho customers provided more rate certainty over the next two years.
 
The Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC) has approved the multi-party settlement agreement in the electric and natural gas rate requests we filed last October. If you’re an Idaho natural gas customer, you’ll see two adjustments to your natural gas rates – April 1 and Oct. 1. Electric customers will see an adjustment on Oct. 1.
 
We’ve agreed not to request an increase in base retail rates that would take effect before Jan. 1, 2015. Other annual adjustments, such as for the cost of wholesale natural gas and purchased power, can still be requested since they are a separate part of your rate and have no impact on earnings. This means you’ll have more certainty in your energy rates for the next two years, so you can better manage your energy costs.
 
The bottom line
 
As a result of the approval, you’ll see two rate changes if you’re an Avista Idaho natural gas customer:
 
- Beginning April 1, if you use an average 60 therms of natural gas a month, you’ll see an increase of $2.82 a month for a revised bill of $55.37.

- Beginning Oct. 1, you’ll see an additional increase of $0.31 for a revised bill of $55.68.

If you’re an electric customer using an average of 930 kilowatt hours a month:

- Beginning Oct. 1, you’ll see an increase of $2.04 for a revised monthly bill of $80.73.

More information on the approval is in this news release.
Published: 3/27/2013  8:03 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Feb 06 , 2013
 
Proposed settlement provides more certainty for customers to manage energy costs over the next two years
 
 
Today we announced a settlement agreement with several parties on the Idaho electric and natural gas general rate requests we filed back in October.  You can read our news release here. The settlement, if approved by the Idaho Public Utilities Commission (IPUC or commission) would mean a two-phase rate increase in electric and natural gas rates. The first would take effect April 1, 2013 and the second on Oct. 1, 2013.
 
As part of the settlement, we’ve agreed not to request additional general rate increases that would take effect before Jan. 1 of 2015. This doesn’t mean we wouldn’t adjust rates based on power supply or wholesale natural gas costs before then (remember, that’s a separate part of your bill). For more information about how we adjust those costs, read our Natural Gas Pricing 101 series or visit our website area About Natural Gas and Power Costs.
 
But what it does mean is that you’ll have more certainty in your energy rates for the next two years, so you can better plan to manage your energy costs. And your energy prices will still be among the lowest in the nation.
 
The bottom line
 
Here’s how the changes, if approved would affect your energy bill.
 
If the commission approves the settlement and you are an Avista electric customer, you would see one general rate increase:

• Beginning Oct. 1, 2013, if you use an average of 930 kilowatt hours a month, you would see an increase of $2.04 per month, for a revised bill of $80.73.

Here’s how the changes, if approved, would affect you as a natural gas customer:

• Beginning April 1, 2013, if you use an average of 60 therms a month, you would see an increase of $2.82 a month, for a revised monthly bill of $55.37.

• Beginning Oct. 1, 2013, if you use an average of 60 therms a month, you would see an additional increase of 31 cents a month, for a revised monthly bill of $55.68.

The settlement and what’s next
 
You may be wondering what a rate case settlement agreement is and how it all works. When Avista files a request to increase rates, it goes through a process much like a legal proceeding. Parties representing various groups including residential, small-business, low-income and electric industrial customers, participate on behalf of their groups.
 
The commission oversees this process, and is charged with setting rates that are fair, just, and reasonable for customers, while allowing Avista the opportunity to earn a fair return on the investment shareholders make so we can continue delivering safe, reliable energy. When we can reach an agreement like this one, it saves time and the cost of a fully litigated rate case. It is ultimately up to the commission to approve the request.
 
In addition to Avista, the parties to the proposed settlement are the Staff of the IPUC, Clearwater Paper Corporation, Idaho Forest Group and The Idaho Conservation League. The IPUC will establish a procedural schedule to gather comments on the proposed settlement from parties to the rate case, as well as customers of Avista, prior to making a decision.  For more information, see the IPUC website.
 
Here is another resource about how energy rates are set that you might find helpful.
Published: 2/6/2013  1:33 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 01 , 2012

If you’re an Avista natural gas customer in Oregon, your natural gas rates are lower starting today – good news for the coming winter months. That’s because the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC) approved our request to reduce natural gas rates in Oregon by an overall 8.2 percent. See the ad we ran in local newspapers.

Today’s decreases are mostly because of lower natural gas prices. Abundant supplies of natural gas and lower demand have continued to push wholesale natural gas prices downward.

Oregon therm chart
You have been seeing the benefits of increased natural gas supply and lower prices for some time. The costs of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and transporting it to our delivery pipelines makes up more than half of your natural gas bill, and these costs fluctuate up and down based on market prices. We do not mark these costs up. We pass them directly through to you through Purchased Gas Cost Adjustments, or PGAs, such as this one.

You will see two separate rate adjustments as a result of this PGA. If you are a residential customer using approximately 47 therms a month, you can expect your bill to decrease by $4.78 for a revised monthly bill of $57.22 beginning today. Other customer groups can also expect decreases in a similar range.

You will see an additional decrease of $0.50, beginning Jan. 1, 2013, for a total decrease of $5.28, and a revised monthly bill of $56.72. This is related to Avista’s purchase of the Klamath Falls Lateral, a 15-mile, 6-inch transmission pipeline that interconnects with Gas Transmission Northwest to transport gas to our customers in Klamath Falls. We expect this purchase to save customers approximately $1 million annually beginning in January 2013.

Did you know, if you’re an Oregon natural gas customer, your rates are at levels similar to those from 2004, and even less when you adjust for inflation?  This is mostly because of the declining prices of natural gas on the wholesale market.

Read more about natural gas pricing in our thee-part Avista blog series that helps explain the three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill – wholesale gas costs, fixed transportation costs, and equipment and people.
Published: 11/1/2012  11:38 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Nov 01 , 2012
New, lower rates start today

If you’re an Avista natural gas customer in Washington, we’ve got good news for you as we head into the colder months of fall and winter. Beginning today and through the rest of the year, depending on your energy usage, you’ll see lower natural gas rates. That’s because last week, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved our Sept. 13 request to reduce natural gas rates in Washington by an overall 4.4 percent.

Rates for our natural gas customers in Washington and Idaho have decreased twice this year because of lower wholesale prices. Overall, natural gas rates in Washington have dropped by about 11 percent in 2012.

Today’s decreases are mostly because of lower natural gas prices. You might remember we reduced natural gas rates for Washington customers in March by 6.4 percent. Like then, abundant supplies of natural gas and lower demand have continued to push wholesale natural gas prices downward. That’s good news. Why?  Because we pass those savings directly through to you through Purchased Gas Cost Adjustments, or PGAs, such as this one.

The combined costs of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and having it transported to our distribution system for delivery to you is about 55 percent of your natural gas bill – or 55 cents of every dollar you pay for natural gas.

With the new rates, if you’re a residential customer in Washington using an average of 68 therms per month, you’ll see a decrease of $2.58 starting today, for a revised monthly bill of $58.18. 

Natural gas work in Spokane Valley
If you’re a commercial customer, you can expect decreases of 5.1 percent for large general service schedule 111, 5.7 percent for extra large general service schedule 121 and 8.0 percent for interruptible sales service schedule 131.

What about rate increases?
Wondering how this decrease is related to news you’ve heard about upcoming rate increases? Recently, Avista announced a settlement with various parties in our general rate case in Washington. The settlement, if approved by the commission, would increase electric rates by 2.0%, and natural gas rates by 3.6% beginning Jan. 1, 2013.  This natural gas rate change in the settlement is related to owning and operating the natural gas system, and is separate from the cost of the natural gas itself.

Even if proposed rate increases are approved and take effect in January, your natural gas rates at the beginning of 2013 will still be well below where they were at the beginning of 2012.

The good news is our customers have been seeing the benefits of increased natural gas supply and lower prices for some time. In fact, Avista pays some of the lowest wholesale natural gas prices among our utility peers in the region. It means our customers continue to have some of the lowest natural gas rates in the country.

Did you know if you’re a Washington natural gas customer, your rates are at levels similar to those from 2003, and even less when you adjust for inflation? This is mostly because of the declining prices of natural gas on the wholesale market. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, natural gas rates in both Idaho and Washington have stayed fairly level over the past 50 years.

Read more about natural gas pricing in our thee-part Avista blog series that helps explain the three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill – wholesale gas costs, fixed transportation costs, and equipment and people.
 

 
 
Published: 11/1/2012  9:39 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Oct 22 , 2012

Settlement provides more certainty for you to manage your energy costs over the next two years

Post by Anna Scarlett

Today we announced a settlement agreement with several parties on the electric and natural gas general rate requests we filed back in April. The settlement, if approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), would mean a modest two-phase rate increase in electric and natural gas rates. The first would take effect Jan. 1, 2013 and the second on Jan. 1 of 2014.

Better yet, we’ve agreed not to request additional general rate increases that would take effect before Jan. 1 of 2015. This doesn’t mean we wouldn’t adjust rates based on wholesale natural gas costs before then (remember, that’s a separate part of your bill). For more information about how we adjust those costs, read our Natural Gas Pricing 101 series.

But what it does mean is that you’ll have more certainty in your energy rates for the next two years, so you can better plan to manage your energy costs. And your energy prices will still be among the lowest in the nation.

The bottom line

If the commission approves the settlement and you are an Avista electric customer, you would see two separate rate increases:

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, if you use an average of 989 kilowatt hours a month, you would see an increase of $1.20 per month, which equates to about 4 cents a day, for a revised bill of $78.69.

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, if you use an average of 989 kilowatt hours a month, you would see an additional increase of $1.60 per month, or about 5 cents a day, for a revised bill of $80.29.

Here’s how the changes, if approved, would affect you as a natural gas customer:

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the first 70 therms of your bill would actually cost a little less. This means an average monthly bill for 68 therms would decrease by about 38 cents to $60.37. For every therm you use over 70, you would see an increase of about 10 cents per month. So, if your usage is less than 70 therms a month, through energy efficiency efforts, for example, you will really see the benefit of this change.

·      Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, if you use an average of 68 therms a month, you would see an increase of 57 cents a month, or about 2 cents a day, for a revised monthly bill of $60.94.

The settlement and what’s next

You may be wondering what a rate case settlement agreement is and how it all works. When Avista files a request to increase rates, it goes through a process much like a legal proceeding. Parties representing various groups including residential, small-business, low-income, and natural gas industrial customers, take part and submit testimony and proposals on behalf of their groups.

The commission oversees this process, and is charged with setting rates that are fair, just, and reasonable for customers, while allowing Avista the opportunity to earn a fair return on the investment shareholders make so we can continue delivering safe, reliable energy. When we can reach an agreement like this one, it saves time and the cost of a fully litigated rate case. It is ultimately up to the commission to approve the request.

In addition to Avista, the parties to the proposed settlement are the Staff of the WUTC, Northwest Industrial Gas Users, Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities and The Energy Project, a low-income customer advocacy group. The Public Counsel Section of the Washington Office of the Attorney General and the Northwest Energy Coalition did not join in the Settlement Agreement. The WUTC sets the schedule for next steps, which include hearing testimony from the parties. For more information, see the WUTC website.

Here are a couple of other resources about how energy rates are set that you might find helpful.

WUTC video: What’s Up (and Down) with Energy Rates?

Avista Rates and Pricing: What’s Driving the Cost of Energy?

Published: 10/22/2012  8:05 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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