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.
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.
Sep 13 , 2012
In Spokane County it is estimated that nearly 14 percent of people are living under the poverty level. Organizations like the United Way contribute by helping children gain the skills they need to succeed in school and life, helping families and individuals become financially stable and independent, and helping people achieve physical, mental and emotional health.
Sep 13 , 2012
Jen Boettcher and Cindy Rogers, from Avista’s Human Resources department attended the second annual “Welcome Home Event” for area veterans and transitioning military members on past this Wednesday at Spokane Community College. The event was organized by VA Medical Center staff and had over 60 employers and vets service organizations registered.
Spokane Mayor David Condon opened the event and wounded warrior Chris Carver gave an inspiring speech on the obstacles he has overcome after an IED explosion in Iraq nearly took his life. The job fair was attended by 75 Spokane-area hometown heroes.
Is there is hometown hero in your life?
Avista will also be hosting an event for veterans at Gonzaga University in October. We'll post information about that event when it becomes available.
Sep 13 , 2012
If approved, new rates would go down 4.4 percent – or 11 percent when combined with March decrease
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.
Sep 12 , 2012
Visitors to the area near Monroe Street Dam will see a crane relocating rock, gravel and sediment that
has accumulated at Monroe Street Dam in downtown Spokane.
Periodic maintenance of the dam helps ensure safe and efficient hydropower
This week, Avista has begun removing and relocating rock, gravel and sediment that has accumulated at Monroe Street Dam in downtown Spokane, in accordance with state permits.
After a crane operator dredges the Monroe Street
Dam forebay, we contract with a professional diver
to go down to the base of the dam to remove
accumulated material that the crane can’t get.
Click on the video above to see underwater
footage of an Associated Underwater Services
(AUS) diver removing material from the intake
gate. The footage is courtesy of AUS.
High and extended river flows earlier this spring caused large amounts of rocks, gravel and other materials to accumulate at the dam. When rocks and other materials pile up in front of the dam, they block the intake structure, which lowers our generating capacity. This periodic maintenance of the dam prevents damage to the intake structure and allows us to maintain power production.
Over the next two to three weeks, a crane located near the southern part of the dam will collect the accumulated materials from the forebay, the area immediately upstream of the dam, and then place them back into the river below the dam.
“Public safety and protecting the surrounding environment are Avista’s top priorities as we do this work,” said Speed Fitzhugh, Spokane River license manager for Avista. “Redistributing the materials back into the river will allow them to continue to serve as a potential gravel source for spawning habitat in the lower Spokane River.”
Visitors should keep clear of the crane, which will be fenced in for safety reasons. For your safety, please stay out of the river in this area and keep clear of designated work areas.
About Monroe Street Dam
Avista's first hydroelectric development, Monroe Street Dam has been producing power since 1890 – longer than any other hydroelectric development currently in operation in the state of Washington.
Avista, then Washington Water Power, constructed the dam at a natural waterfall at Spokane's Lower Falls. The dam was rebuilt in 1974, and a new underground powerhouse was built in 1992. Since Monroe Street Dam is a low head concrete gravity dam designed and built to provide aesthetically pleasing flows, it doesn’t have spill gates that allow for rocks and other natural materials to pass through. Since the reconstruction in the 1970s, Avista has periodically removed and relocated natural materials about every two years to ensure the plant is generating power safely and efficiently.
After a crane operator dredges the Monroe Street Dam forebay, we contract with a professional diver to go down to the base of the dam to remove accumulated material that the crane can’t get.
Click on the video above to see underwater footage of an Associated Underwater Services (AUS) diver removing material from the intake gate. The footage is courtesy of AUS.
Sep 10 , 2012
The Avista Energy Fair will be in Lewiston, Idaho
tomorrow at the Lewiston Community Center from
3 p.m. – 6 p.m. Hope to see you there.
The Avista Energy Fair
will be in Lewiston, Idaho tomorrow at the Lewiston Community Center from 3 p.m. – 6 p.m. It will offer demonstrations of ways to keep homes warm and safe for the winter ahead. Fair attendees can speak with Avista staff and learn first-hand about low-cost and no-cost energy efficiency tips. They’ll see how to install window draft stoppers like rope caulk, window plastic and v-seal. Free samples of these and other materials to help people maximize energy efficiency in their homes will be given out at the fair.
In addition, Avista employees will have information about billing assistance and payment options. Avista community partners will also be on hand to offer helpful information about other community resources.
Each year our customers ask for help in managing their energy use and costs during the winter. It’s never too early in the year for us to offer a broad range of ideas and demonstrations that will help residents keep the warm air inside and the cold air outside their homes. This event provides a great way for customers to conveniently access Avista’s many services. Information about payment options, energy assistance and energy efficiency will be especially helpful to those struggling to pay their bills.
Energy Fair Details
Tuesday, September 11
3 p.m. – 6 p.m.
Lewiston Community Center
1424 Main St., Lewiston, ID
Price = Free
Sep 05 , 2012
Copper wire similar to this coil, was stolen from a
North Spokane substation, causing a 1.5 hour
power outage for roughly 3,600 Avista customers
Post by Dan Kolbet
This morning’s one hour and 30 minute power outage
that impacted roughly 3,600 North Spokane customers was caused by copper theft at a substation near Spokane Falls Community College. Thieves stole copper from the substation and also damaged communications equipment.
The theft was not the first time this year that thieves targeted Avista substations in the Spokane-Coeur d’Alene area. Copper is traditionally used by utilities to ground the electrical equipment in substations that help deliver customers’ power. Thieves tend to snip the copper ground wires that help the electrical system maintain an even electrical voltage and complete the electrical circuit.
The outage occurred around 7 a.m. this morning, a time when customers begin to use more power as the morning progresses. The substation was forced offline, causing the outage. Avista rerouted power through additional substations nearby, to get power restored to customers quickly.
While all customers are back in service now, the substation remained offline throughout the day as repairs were made.
Copper theft is a serious crime that endangers the general public, Avista employees and of course the thieves themselves.
Avista was instrumental in passing a 2007 Washington state law making it harder to sell metals without proper documentation. The law requires that buyers of scrap metal help law enforcement identify sellers of illegally obtained metal. (RCW 19.290).
Sep 04 , 2012
A week-long search finally uncovers who the Good Samaritan employee actually was
Journeyman Gas Serviceman Trevor Butler made a
big impact on a family after helping an elderly
woman who had fallen near her home in North
With hundreds of employees working every hour of every day throughout our 3-state service territory, our employees see a lot in the field. They see car accidents and help injured motorists. They see lost children and help return them home. They administer first aid. It’s just the right thing to do.
When an Avista employee sees someone who needs help, they offer it without question. Sometimes they go about their good deeds so quickly that the recipient doesn’t get a chance to learn the employee’s name, which is exactly what happened last week in Spokane.
Andie Davis of Deer Park sent us a message on Facebook about an Avista employee who helped her mom Connie Davis. The trouble was, we couldn’t immediately figure out who the employee was. Here’s what she wrote:
“I'd like to take this opportunity to tell you a little story about a gentleman who works for Avista in the Spokane area, but I first need to give you a little background.
My mom is a cancer patient, with stage 4 cancer. It's a very aggressive variety of cancer; she will be on chemo the rest of her life. With that she has had complications with the chemo, and it has affected her ability to do just about anything. Her balance, dexterity, energy, mobility, breathing and memory have all been affected. The purpose for me sharing this is this, because many of these issues came into play yesterday.
My mom was watering her flowers, while using her walker on her front porch. One of your Avista trucks happened to be parked nearby, while the driver was tending to his paperwork. My mom fell, (her walker rolled down the ramp and got away from her) and couldn't get back up. After a couple attempts trying to get up, your driver had made it to her house and helped her recover her walker and back into her house. LUCKILY her worst injury was a scuff to her knee and bruised pride. She maintained good humor as they both joked about "I've fallen and can't get up" BUT if your employee hadn't helped her, who knows how long she would've been stuck outside in the 90+ degree weather before anyone would've noticed her. She didn't get his name or I'd try to thank him personally. It's nice to know that there are still kind people out there who will help those who cannot help themselves. I wish I could tell this man thank you myself, though I know it's not very likely we will ever find out who he was. . . . This guy deserves an extra day off, a hug and some ice cream! Not only did he help someone in need, he made your company look good, and those are the guys your company needs in the age of distrust for large corporations. THANK YOU for hiring this man, so he could be where someone really needed his help.”
I immediately forwarded Andie’s message to several Avista managers to try and figure out who this terrific employee was. No luck after days. Although I did hear additional stories about helping out young kids and even helping another woman in a similar situation get to her feet. It showed me, more than anything, that these types of good deeds happen all the time and we simply don’t talk about them. I know a lot of my co-workers shy away from the spotlight and aren’t looking for a pat on the back, but in this case, it was deserved and everyone who read Andie’s note really wanted to find this guy.
After about a week of searching I got a call from a manager in our natural gas area who said he found our hero. It was Journeyman Gas Serviceman Trevor Butler. A couple of his co-workers came forward to say who did the good deed. He didn’t even want to come forward himself.
When told of the thank you he received, ever-so-humble Trevor just said it was the right thing to do. No less. No more.
There’s a lot more to being an employee of Avista than just punching the clock, we have a responsibility for our neighbors too. I’m certainly proud to work here with people like Trevor, who make the communities we serve better by just doing the right thing.
To Trevor, I think Andie said it best, but once again, thank you for what you did to help Connie. You’ve made your co-workers very proud.
Aug 31 , 2012
Avista’s aesthetic spills project benefits begin to unfold as water levels decrease
These two photos of Spokane River’s north channel
in Riverfront Park illustrate the difference Avista’s
aesthetic spills project makes. The one on the top
was taken before the project began, with river flows
at 500 cubic feet per second (CFS). The one on the
bottom was taken this month, with river flows at 300
What a difference an aesthetic flows project makes.
If you compare the river during this time of year to
years past, you will notice the falls are flowing with
water. These photos were taken from Post Street
Bridge facing east towards Canada Island in River
-front Park. The top photo was taken before the
project began, with river flows at 500 cubic feet per
second (CFS). The photo at the bottom was taken
this month, with river flows at 300 CFS. Even though
there is less water flow, restoring the riverbed to
more of a natural state provides many aesthetic
and environmental benefits.
If you live in or visit Spokane in the final weeks of summer, you might take the opportunity to go look at the north and south channels of the Spokane River flows
in Riverfront Park. If you compare the river during this time of year to years past, you will notice the falls are flowing with water.
Each summer, usually in July or August, river flows decrease substantially. In the past, this left the two channels dry with just a trickle of water flowing through the south channel.
In the summer of 2010, as part of the aesthetic spills requirement in our federal license to operate Upper Falls Dam, Avista and several stakeholder groups took part in a assessing test flows to determine whether permanent channel modifications could enhance the view of the river during periods of low river flow. These groups, including the City of Spokane
, Friends of the Falls
, Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club
, the Friends of the Centennial Trail
and The Sierra Club
were trying to learn whether the same or better, aesthetic effects could be achieved with 300 cubic feet per second (CFS) flowing through the two channels, than 500 CFS would without modifications.
During the aesthetic spill test, biologists also assessed the impact of potential channel modifications to fish and fish habitat in the river through the park and downstream.
The test was successful, and last year, Avista and its contractors, Land Expressions LLC
, gave the south and north channels a makeover to help restore the Spokane River’s beauty to a more natural state, the way it once was before early developers in Spokane cut into the bedrock to collect water during dry times. The enhancements, using “weirs"
that look like the natural bedrock in the river, spread water more evenly throughout the Upper Falls’ two channels that run north and south of Canada Island. Combined, they produce an aesthetically pleasing flow of water that viewers can enjoy throughout the year.
“Avista and our contractors took a new and creative approach to restoring the falls to a more natural state,” said Spokane River License Manager Speed Fitzhugh. “We matched the color, shape and texture of the weirs to that of the bedrock to produce seamless, natural looking river flows. As far as we’ve been able to determine, it’s the first project of its kind in North America.”
You may remember this year we had a longer than normal run-off season, with high, fast river flows in the Spokane and other area rivers. Thanks to the collaborative effort of Avista, our stakeholders and contractors, visitors to downtown Spokane no longer have to look at a dry riverbed during the warm summer days.
Protecting natural resources and operating our dams responsibly helps us continue to generate clean, reliable and cost-effective hydroelectric power for our customers. Last year’s aesthetic spills project on the Spokane River has improved the scenery in downtown Spokane and recreated habitat for fish, birds, and other local wildlife, something that we can all be proud of for generations to come.
If you pig out in the park this weekend, check out the falls
If you happen to visit Riverfront Park for Pig Out in the Park or for any other event or reason, you can check out the falls yourself. KXLY’s Jeff Humphrey covered the aesthetic spills project in this week’s news and interviewed Avista’s Spokane River License Manager, Speed Fitzhugh.
Aug 30 , 2012
When you think about how your electricity is generated you probably think it comes mainly from hydropower
. But did you know that Avista also uses natural gas as a fuel to generate electricity? In fact, it makes up 36% of our company owned electric power plants
. Natural gas generation is a dependable source of energy because the fuel can be stored to generate electricity anytime, and it has about half the carbon emissions of other fossil fuels, such as coal.
Avista and Portland General Electric co-own a combined cycle natural gas plant called Coyote Springs, located in Boardman, Oregon. The plant has 2 main generation units, and Avista owns Unit 2.
A combined cycle plant has a gas turbine and a steam unit all in one. These types of units are considered very efficient because they use the waste heat from the gas turbine to create steam, instead of exhausting it back into the atmosphere.
Unlike a simple cycle gas plant, which can be fired up quickly to meet the electricity generation needs of customers, the combined cycle plant at Coyote Springs is considered a “base load” facility because the natural gas generator needs to run consistently in order to provide heat for the steam generator.
Like a car, there are certain maintenance activities that need to take place after a number of years. This year, unit 2 had its first scheduled major maintenance since the unit went in service in 2002.
The project involves overhauling the natural gas and steam generators in unit 2. From start to finish, the project takes approximately six weeks to complete and a great deal of collaboration and teamwork.
The end result of the maintenance is that Unit 2 at Coyote Springs will continue to have the capacity to generate an average of 280 megawatts of power for our customers – that’s enough electricity for just over 210,000 homes.