Sep 17 , 2012
So, there's a gas decrease request and a request for an increase and a . . . well, it's confusing at times. Let us explain.
 
 
WA gas rate breakdown.
Question for the day: Have you ever thought about what makes up your natural gas bill?

Other than looking at how much our monthly bill is and maybe how much energy we used the last month, most of us don’t give it a thought.

As an Avista customer, every dollar you pay for natural gas service on average is made up of three different components – the wholesale cost of the natural gas used (41 cents), the cost for transporting that gas from the producer to Avista’s distribution system (13 cents), and the cost for the people, equipment and services needed to deliver that gas to your home (46 cents).

Last Thursday, we asked the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to allow Avista to decrease natural gas rates for the second time this year by an additional overall 4.4 percent because wholesale natural gas prices continue to decline. You can read more about the request in the news release.

If our request is approved by the UTC, the new lower rates would be effective Nov. 1, making Washington residential natural gas rates over 11 percent lower than at the beginning of this year. This requested decrease is in the wholesale cost of gas (41 cents) and fixed transportation (13 cents) portions of your bill.

If you’re a Washington customer, you may have seen an insert in your August energy bill that provides information on a different Avista rate request called a general rate case.  That request was made last April to increase both electric and natural gas rates. So, why are we asking to decrease and increase natural gas rates at the same time?

The natural gas portion of the general rate case is for the delivery portion (46 cents) of your bill – the people, equipment and services needed to safely and reliably deliver natural gas to you. The request to increase natural gas rates by an overall 5.9 percent is to recover increasing costs to operate and maintain the natural gas system. The UTC has up to 11 months from when the request was made to review and issue a decision.

Rates are complex and can be confusing, so we have a short video that gives more information on the general rate case process. Information on Avista’s general rate case, including upcoming public hearings, is available in the Notice of Request for Rate Increase brochure that was in your August Avista bill. If you missed the insert click this link to check it out.
Published: 9/17/2012  4:02 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Sep 13 , 2012
If approved, new rates would go down 4.4 percent – or 11 percent when combined with March decrease
 
Natural Gas Pricing 101
Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 1
Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 2
Natural Gas Pricing 101, Part 3
Post by Debbie Simock

Good news if you’re a natural gas customer in Washington – your rates could go down for the second time this year thanks to lower wholesale natural gas prices.

We filed a request today asking to reduce natural gas rates in Washington by an overall 4.4 percent. That’s in addition to a 6.4 decrease that was effective March 1 of this year. If the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approves our latest request, beginning Nov. 1 residential rates would be over 11 percent lower than at the beginning of this year. You can read more about our request and the drivers in today’s news release.

Want to know more?
Check out our special thee-part Avista blog series that helps explain the sometimes confusing nature of natural gas pricing and find out about the three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill – wholesale gas costs, fixed transportation costs, and equipment and people.
Published: 9/13/2012  2:38 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 28 , 2012
pix
 

Avista was truly “Human Powered” last week thanks to more than 120 employees who generously volunteered their time for the Salvation Army Backpack for Kids giveaway or helped us organize, set up and staff the Avista Energy Fair 2012 at the event. In the lead-up to the big day, employees donated more than $1,700, which was matched by a $500 contribution from Avista. Three bins of school supplies were also donated by our generous co-workers in Spokane.

The event began at 8 a.m. with a line that stretched around a city block. When the last backpack was given out at 6:30 p.m., more than 1,500 families had received a total of 3,614 backpacks, many of which were proudly worn by their new owners. For the 137 kids who were placed on a waiting list when the backpacks ran out, their wait for school supplies won’t last long. Avista has donated an additional $2,000 to the Salvation Army to purchase the packs and the learning tools that go inside.

The day and what it meant to our employees is best summed up in their own words:

“What an important service to the families and children who so desperately need support – and the joy that it brought the children to have a new, beautiful backpack of their very own!  We were so grateful to be able to share the opportunity for our employees to volunteer and see firsthand the important work that you (Salvation Army) do in our community for the same families who are also our customers.”
-Anne Marie Axworthy, Director of Consumer Affairs

“Having only been employed with Avista for about two months, it hasn’t taken long to find out that Avista truly lives out its commitment to give back to the communities it serves. This commitment was displayed early in the process through communication at both the corporate and departmental levels encouraging employees to participate, and by providing the work schedule flexibility to allow me to be able to volunteer.  However, what really cemented Avista’s commitment for me, was when I did a double take when I realized Scott Morris was driving the shuttle van I was riding to the event. It was amazing to me the number of parents that expressed their gratitude for our participation in helping to get their children something as simple as a backpack for school.”  
-Bob Brandkamp, Risk Management Analyst

“It’s eye-opening anytime I do community service with low income people. I registered people as they came in, and I had to ask what their monthly income was. The answers were astounding, how little people live on in our community. These are people with kids my kids’ ages. I feel fortunate to be in the position I'm in. It’s great that Avista partners with organizations like the Salvation Army.
-Lamont Miles, Design Integration Manager

“It was very nice for Avista to put the opportunity out there for us to volunteer. It’s hard for my wife and I to know where to volunteer and this gave us a way to help in the community.”
-Brian Hosig, Residential Meterman

“I saw a lot of people with pride and dignity; people who appreciated what was given to them. They were surprised we had an Avista goody bag. I'm glad I did it. It meant a lot to me.”
-Roxanne Williams, Energy Efficiency Program Rep.

“I volunteered with my son, Patrick. I thought it was good for him to see the need out there. He's pretty sheltered with dinner at home every night and the school supplies we purchase for him. It was good for him to see the other side of the coin -- how much need there is.  It was startling to see what some people are surviving on every month with several children. It’s Important to go to school that first day and start off on the right foot. How devastating it would be for kids to go to school without school supplies.”
-Debbie Deubel, Construction Standards Technician

And finally from Capt. Kyle Smith, Spokane Corps Officer, The Salvation Army Spokane Regional Services:

“Having such a wonderful group of volunteers from Avista was extremely helpful.  Your employees’ big smiles and willingness to jump in wherever needed made the difference. One of my favorite words is "synergy."  Yesterday I think we experienced synergy in action.  We all achieved far more working together than we could have done apart. Thanks again for being good neighbors.”
 
 
Published: 8/28/2012  11:16 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 17 , 2012
Blades going up.
 
Photos by Sarah Richards

Yesterday several massive blades were installed on turbines at the Palouse Wind farm on Washington State Route 195 near Oakesdale, Wash. Get more details and photos of the project. 
 
 
Published: 8/17/2012  11:16 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 03 , 2012
KXLY wind
 
Rosalia, Whitman County already benefiting economically
 
Post by Dan Kolbet
 
KXLY did a pretty cool story last night on the economic impacts of the Palouse Wind project going up south of Rosalia. First Wind is building the project, but Avista has a 30-year power purchase agreement on the electrical output.

Watch the story above by reporter and weekend anchor Colleen O'Brien. Read the whole story on KXLY’s website here.  There's a short (15-second) commercial before the story starts, but hey, this is about economic impact, right? So its OK.
 
Wind construction
A crane lifting a roughly 250,000-pound nacelle and
hub unit to be placed on top of the tower.
My co-workers Sarah Richards and Anna Scarlett visited the wind farm site last week and took some awesome photos of the construction site. Check out those photos here.
 
“We were very fortunate to capture this renewable energy project in Whitman County, along with the increasing level of economic activity it brings,” said Dick Watters, Whitman County director for the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association (SEWEDA). “It was always our first priority. We worked very close with Palouse Wind to ensure our region’s workforce, goods and service providers, and contractors had opportunities to participate along the way.”

According to First Wind, more than 150 jobs are being created during construction, which they anticipate will result in millions of dollars invested in the Inland Northwest.

First Wind estimates that over the life of the project, $700,000 will be generated in tax revenues per year. Additionally, sales tax collected on all goods and services purchased within Whitman County related to the project will contribute to the county general fund.

At Avista, renewable energy has been at the heart of our business since 1889. With the ever-increasing demand for energy, Avista’s purchase agreement with Palouse Wind will help us serve our customers with the renewable energy you expect and depend on.
 
Published: 8/3/2012  9:36 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 01 , 2012
Partnership formed to manage approximately 2,000 acres of Avista and DNR property around Nine Mile Dam and Lake Spokane
 
 
Nine Mile Resort
State Parks will now manage Avista’s Nine Mile
Recreation Area as part of its Riverside State Park
operations. We expect this to improve your recreation
experiences at this and our other facilities.
 
Lake Spokane
DNR’s Lake Spokane Campground, which includes
campsites, a boat launch, picnic and swimming areas,
will be open longer to extend the recreation season,
from April 15 through Oct. 15. In the future, the
campground will be also expanded as part of the
agreement.
Avista owns and operates five federally-licensed hydroelectric facilities on the Spokane River – Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, Nine Mile and Long Lake. Besides generating clean, reliable hydropower, these dams provide an abundance of recreation opportunities. As part of our 50-year federal license to operate our Spokane River hydroelectric facilities, we’re committed to working with agencies in Washington and Idaho to expand, enhance and preserve recreation opportunities related to our dams.

As part of this commitment, we’ve developed multi-year plans for recreation on and around Lake Spokane, the Spokane River, and Coeur d’Alene Lake, which include the following:
• Improving existing campgrounds, boat facilities, trails, and scenic overlooks
• Developing new recreation facilities and interpretive displays
• Increasing access for individuals with disabilities
• Partnering with others to operate and maintain recreation facilities in a cost-effective and responsible manner

We’ve already started working towards these goals. Today Avista and the Washington State Parks and Recreation Commission and Washington State Department of Natural Resources (DNR) announced a partnership to manage approximately 2,000 acres of Avista and DNR property around Nine Mile Dam and Lake Spokane (also known as Long Lake). Read the news release. 
 
State Parks will now manage Avista’s Nine Mile Falls and Lake Spokane Recreation areas and DNR’s Lake Spokane Campground as part of its Riverside State Park operations. This includes Nine Mile Recreation Area and our Long Lake Dam day-use area, as well as south shore trailheads during non-hunting seasons. State Parks will also manage Avista’s scenic overlooks at Long Lake and Nine Mile dams, and some of the new recreation facilities we plan to develop in 2013. These include a boat take-out above Nine Mile Dam, a boat put-in below Long Lake Dam, and 10 boat-in-only campsites on Lake Spokane.

Avista is also assisting State Parks in the management of DNR’s Lake Spokane Campground, which includes campsites, a boat launch, picnic and swimming areas. The campground and boat launch will be open longer to extend the recreation season, from April 15 through Oct. 15. In the future, the campground will be also expanded as part of the agreement.

We expect this partnership to increase and improve recreation, particularly around Lake Spokane, with services that include better security, maintenance, and ongoing upkeep. However, people recreating at these sites will now need a Discover Pass for day use, and may have to pay other state camping and boat launch fees as required. The Discover Pass fees help offset the high cost of maintaining recreation facilities for public use, and eliminate future potential fees that Avista may otherwise have to charge users of these facilities.

The good news is, for those of you who already have a Discover Pass, you’re getting a lot more for your investment in the local area. If you haven’t purchased a pass yet, doing so will help to ensure you have the best experience possible, whether you’re hiking, boating, camping, fishing, or just out for a day of picnicking and swimming. State Parks offers passes that reduce or waive camping and launch fees for limited-income senior citizens, disabled veterans, foster parents and people with disabilities. For more information, visit www.discoverpass.wa.gov.
Published: 8/1/2012  4:20 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Aug 01 , 2012
slideshow
 

Inside a wind turbine
A rare look inside a wind turbine.
If you’ve had the opportunity to drive on State Route 195 near Oakesdale, Wash., within the past few weeks, you may have noticed large white towers popping up like daisies.

A little unfamiliar looking without their blades, the 250-foot structures are just the first of 58 Vestas V100-1.8 megawatt (MW) wind turbines, which will dot the Naff Ridge at First Wind’s Palouse Wind project.

Last year, Avista signed an agreement to purchase the renewable wind power generated by the proposed Palouse Wind project in Whitman County, Wash., once it comes online. In early May of this year, First Wind broke ground on Palouse Wind. First Wind expects the project to be complete and generating power by the end of the year. Parts of the wind turbines have arrived and are being assembled and erected now.

Don’t let your view from the road deceive you, the sheer size and weight of the various wind turbine parts dictate a carefully planned delivery system of barge, rail and night-time truck hauls to avoid any traffic concerns. For example, the nacelle, which is the part that sits on top of the tower and houses all of the generating components of a wind turbine, weighs 97.5 tons. The blades, more than 160 feet in length, are scheduled to start arriving on site this month.

Tilling the ground for renewable energy and economic development
Avista is rooted in renewable energy. According to the latest report of the National Resources Defense Council, "Benchmarking Air Emissions of the 100 Largest Electric Power Producers in the United States," Avista is the 11th lowest emitter of CO2 in pounds per megawatt-hour of major electric generators in the United States and the third lowest among investor-owned utilities. With 50 percent of our net generation capability from hydroelectric and a majority of our thermal generation fueled with natural gas, plus a commitment to energy efficiency, we are one of the greenest utilities in the nation. As the demands for energy increase, it’s important to look for sustainable ways to meet those demands.

“We’ve been looking at wind power for a long time at Avista,” said Bob Lafferty, Avista’s director of power supply. “The renewable energy from Palouse Wind will be an important piece of our diverse portfolio that can help us meet our customers’ energy needs and renewable portfolio standards in Washington.”

Palouse Wind will be the largest renewable energy facility in Whitman County with the capacity to generate 105 MW of energy – enough clean, renewable energy to power about 30,000 of our customers’ homes.

In addition to meeting an energy need, the location of the Palouse Wind project brings economic growth to the region as well.

“We were very fortunate to capture this renewable energy project in Whitman County, along with the increasing level of economic activity it brings,” said Dick Watters, Whitman County director for the Southeast Washington Economic Development Association (SEWEDA). “It was always our first priority. We worked very close with Palouse Wind to ensure our region’s workforce, goods and service providers, and contractors had opportunities to participate along the way.”

According to First Wind, more than 150 jobs are being created during construction, which they anticipate will result in millions of dollars invested in the Inland Northwest.

First Wind estimates that over the life of the project, $700,000 will be generated in tax revenues per year. Additionally, sales tax collected on all goods and services purchased within Whitman County related to the project will contribute to the county general fund.

“Economic development is the process of building strong, adaptive and diverse economies,” Avista’s Regional Business Manager Paul Kimmell added. “Local assets and realities, a diverse industry base, and a commitment to equality of opportunity and sustainable practices must drive these strategies. This project has emerged as one that will ensure a strong foundation for long-term stability and economic growth for Whitman County.”

At Avista, renewable energy has been at the heart of our business since 1889. With the ever-increasing demand for energy, Avista’s purchase agreement with Palouse Wind will help us serve our customers with the renewable energy you expect and depend on.
Published: 8/1/2012  10:13 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 30 , 2012
Avista's Deer Park Settler's Days truck
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

For this year’s Settler’s Days Parade in Deer Park, Wash., Avista dressed up one of our electric line trucks with a patriotic theme to cruise the route. Our employees volunteer their time to participate in community events like this to share information about energy efficiency and safety. We love the communities we serve. Thanks for having us, Deer Park!

In the picture above you can see Deer Park Operations Manager Frank Binder; Journeyman Lineman Pat St. Amand, his wife Coleen and their two daughters Bridget and Margaret; Community Investment and Foundation Manager Kristi Meyer; and of course, Edison and our Energy Watchdog, Wattson.

View more photos on the Avista Utilities Facebook page.

Learn more about the work we’ve done in Deer Park
Avista Blog Nov. 11, 2011: Deer Park VFW unveils colorful memorial
Published: 7/30/2012  3:55 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 30 , 2012

Audit in progress
Don’t wait to sign up for Avista’s in-home energy audit if you’ve been thinking about having your home checked out for as low at $49. The deadline for registering is midnight August 3 for residents in the City of Spokane and unincorporated areas of Spokane County. After that date, federal funding will end for the two-year pilot program that provides specific recommendations to help Spokane County homeowners make informed decisions about actions they can take to help save energy. 

The pilot program is a partnership with Avista, Spokane County and the cities of Spokane and Spokane Valley. The three local governments support the audit program with Energy Efficiency and Conservation Block Grant funds each received in 2010 from the US Department of Energy. Avista manages the in-home energy audit program and has matched funding from its program partners to help reduce the cost of the audit for Avista customers and as part of the company’s long-standing commitment to energy efficiency. Available funding for residents in the city of Spokane Valley has already been exhausted.

During the audit, certified auditors conduct a physical inspection of a home and its major appliances. The auditors also perform a series of diagnostic tests to uncover areas of heat loss or gain. Windows, doors, insulation, furnace, ducts and vents are checked as part of the comprehensive audit. Results and recommendations are provided in a written follow-up report. Homeowners also receive an energy efficiency kit with weatherization items, CFL bulbs and low-flow showerheads.

So, don’t let time run out on you for this great deal.
Published: 7/30/2012  1:09 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jul 23 , 2012
Video
 
A peek at Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan for the Spokane River Project

Post by Brandi Smith

36 years ago, our nation’s bird and symbol of freedom was placed on the endangered species list. Today, the birds are rebounding again across the country and locally.
 
Avista’s Terrestrial Resource Specialist, David Armes, is in charge of implementing Avista’s Bald Eagle Management Plan – something we are required to do as part of our federal license to operate our Spokane River Project’s five hydroelectric facilities. 
 
Our contribution to the protection of the Bald Eagle includes annual surveys and monitoring of Bald Eagle nests located near the Spokane River Project area.  This includes Coeur d’Alene Lake and its three tributaries; the Coeur d’Alene, St. Joe and St. Maries Rivers as well as the Spokane River and Lake Spokane.

While conducting surveys we look to see if the nests are occupied, evaluate the success of the nests and observe the fledging period, a time when newborn Eagles are preparing to leave the nest. 

The information we gather is shared with natural resource agencies, such as the Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife, the Idaho Department of Fish and Game and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife service. The information helps shape future efforts for protecting Bald Eagles in the area.  
 
Avista is proud to support the conservation effort of our nation’s bird and will continue our legacy of environmental stewardship and reliability.
Published: 7/23/2012  2:32 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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