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

Jan 24 , 2011
Smart Grid community meeting
Community members learned about Avista's pullman smart grid project at a meeting on January 24, 2011.
 
Advanced meters to be installed in Pullman and Albion, Washington
 
 
Avista and its project partners, including Battelle, updated Pullman community leaders on the Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration Project today and outlined project plans for 2011.

While the first year of the five-year project focused on updating and automating Pullman’s distribution system, the second year will primarily involve the installation of Itron advanced meters in the city of Pullman, Wash. and the community of Albion, Wash. Approximately 13,000 electric and 5,000 natural gas customers will have their meters upgraded to the new, digital meters, with some customers receiving both electric and natural gas meters. The new meters will be installed over several months beginning in March, 2011.

Heather Cummins talks about smart grid
"The most important aspects of the
Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration
project are the advantages it can pote-
ntially create for our customers,” said
Heather Cummins, Avista’s director of
process improvement, who leads Avista’s
smart grid programs.
Advanced meters operate via a secure wireless network, allowing two-way, real-time communication between the customers’ meter and Avista, so Avista can provide information to customers about their ongoing energy usage through a secure website. Later this year, customers with advanced meters should be able to log into their Avista Utilities account and access additional enhanced web tools to monitor their energy usage throughout the month so they can make more informed decisions about their energy use.

“The most important aspects of the Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration project are the advantages it can potentially create for our customers,” said Heather Cummins, Avista’s director of process improvement, who leads Avista’s smart grid programs.

The advanced meters have the ability to automatically detect and report an outage at a customer’s home or business. The meters are part of an automated distribution system that reduces outage frequency and duration for all customers.

“Having outage information available almost instantly can help our crews to more quickly and efficiently restore power to our customers,” said Dan Johnson, Avista’s Project Manager for the Pullman project.

Advanced Meter
A sneek peek at the advanced meters that
allow Avista's smart grid project to work.
Avista will notify customers who will be receiving the new meters with a letter over the next few weeks, and will continue to update customers with information about the demonstration project and technology throughout the project. Customers can also find information online at avistautilities.com.

The Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration Project is part of the Pacific Northwest Grid Demonstration Project, led by Battelle, to demonstrate smart grid technologies using matching stimulus monies from the U.S. Department of Energy. Avista is leading the five-year Pullman Smart Grid Demonstration Project, and will contribute $14.9 million with its local partners contributing an additional $4 million to create a smart grid in Pullman.

“We envision the smart grid to be a more efficient and effective electricity infrastructure that can help contain costs, reduce emissions, incorporate renewable energy, increase power grid reliability and provide greater flexibility for consumers,” Cummins said. “Over the long-term, it could modernize our traditional, one-way power delivery system to an automated, two-way exchange of information and multi-directional power flow.”

Cost-share partners for the Pullman Project are Itron, Washington State University, Hewlett Packard and Spirae. Other partners include vendors and contractors such as Scope and Efacec Advanced Control Systems, who will provide product and services including equipment and installation. Many of the project’s smart grid devices incorporate relay devices produced by Schweitzer Engineering Laboratories, Inc., which remains a supportive contributor to the overall success of the SGDP project.
 
Published: 1/24/2011  4:33 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 20 , 2011
Award presentation
Larry Garbarino, center received the Presidents Leadership
Award for Safety, with him, from left to right are Al Fisher, Don
Kopczynski, Dennis Vermillion and Tim Carlberg.
 
At a utility, working safely is an essential part of everyday life. Whether 40 feet in the air repairing 15,000 kV lines, in a ditch laying two-inch natural gas lines or driving down the street to meet a customer – everything we do, we must do with safety in mind.

So, when an employee goes above and beyond routine safety practices, we celebrate his or her dedication. Each year, one outstanding employee is honored with the President’s Leadership Award for Safety. This year, the award was presented to Larry Garbarino, a foreman in the generation and production mechanical shop and one of the lead mechanical foremen on the Noxon Rapids hydroelectric plant upgrade.

Play Noxon video
Watch a video on how Avista is upgrading its
Noxon Rapids Dam on the Clark Fork River.
In making the award at Avista’s annual safety conference, Dennis Vermillion, president of Avista Utilities, said, “Larry and his crew have worked safely alongside the Noxon plant operators, the generation and production electrical, communication and relay technical/engineering crews, other Avista crews and up to 10 different outside contractors. Team work, and in many cases creativity, have been required to work through the many challenges that come up in a job of this magnitude. And, it was completed without any injuries. The one constant has been the safety leadership and influence of Larry Garbarino.”

The nomination submitted for Larry reads in part “Larry’s leadership, attention to detail and constant safety vigilance have resulted in a remarkable safety record. Handling loads anywhere from a couple of hundred pounds up to 325 tons, any shape and size imaginable, is dangerous work. Larry’s confidence in his people, willingness to listen to suggestions and great leadership skills have made a difference. Larry leads by example and doesn’t compromise the safety of himself or others to get a job done. Larry has the respect and trust of those around him; he’s a great teacher, mentor and friend to us all.”

The President’s Leadership Award for Safety was first presented in 2009 as a means to recognize an employee who makes a special effort to enhance safety and who demonstrates leadership by modeling safety with his or her actions. Previous recipients are Dale Sisson, head groundsman on the Spokane dock and Brad Arnzen, line foreman on the Grangeville dock.

When you think about it, everyone can take a lesson from Larry and the other award winners. Each of us can have an impact on safety with every action you choose to take during every day – whether at work, at home or at play.
 
Take a look at our "Your Safety" section of this website.
Published: 1/20/2011  10:30 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 20 , 2011
2011
Post by Dan Kolbet

Earlier this month we asked for electric and natural gas New Year’s resolutions, in the same context of our 1929 New Year’s resolutions. Put on your newsboy’s hat and knickers and read on.

Tamara sent in these two gems:

• Thy will plug thou motor vehicle at night to maketh to work in thy morning.
• Thou will open thy solar blinds to allow the sunshine in. 

Here’s a few more I thought were fitting, but maybe a bit cheesy.

• Remember thy natural gas insert pilot light – extinguish when not in use
• Thou shalt be happy if thee signs up for Comfort Level Billing.
• Thine energy use will be revealed through the Home Energy Analyzer
 
Published: 1/20/2011  9:56 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 12 , 2011
Snowy tree branch
 
Has this winter been colder than past winters? Sort of, but even little changes really add up
 
Post byDan Kolbet
Twitter: @Dan_at_Avista

Click to enlarge
The average high and low winter temperatures
in Spokane for the past three winters. Click to enlarge.
I’ve heard online and from friends and co-workers over the last several weeks that this winter (2010-2011) seems particularly cold. Thinking back on it, I recall the previous winter didn’t seem too cold at all. Yet that was in comparison to my memory of the 2008-2009 winter. So I guess it’s all relative.

This week I wanted to find out if the weather was really colder and if it was impacting customer bills, so I set off on a quest for information.

I decided to look up average temperatures with the National Weather Service and see if this winter was colder than the previous one. Then I created the chart on the left (click it for larger detail). I recorded the average high and low temperature in Spokane in September, October, November, December and January over the past three winters.

If you really love charts, then by all means, do your own analysis of the data, but for you normal people – here’s what I found: It depends.

For example, so far in January 2011 we’re averaging a low temperature of 14.6 degrees, compared to last year of 40 degrees - a pretty big difference. Of course the month isn’t even half over, so this is going to change. But December 2010’s average low was warmer than 2009 (24.5 to 19.1), but November was colder (27.0 to 30.4).

Since my fancy chart isn’t telling me much, I contacted Avista’s energy efficiency expert Tom Lienhard to find out what sort of impact temperature changes really have on a home. Turns out, it’s quite a bit.

There are really three ways you can lose heat in your home, but the biggest one is through conductive heat loss which happens through the walls, floors, ceiling, doors and windows of your home. The lower the R-value of each fenestration (wall, window or door), the more heat that leaves the home.

The colder the temperature outside, the harder your home works to maintain the desired temperature inside. Depending on the weather, a home could use 300% more energy to accomplish that consistent temperature inside.

Here’s an example of how it works:

Let’s say we have a building that has 1,600 square feet of floor space, but it has 4,480 square feet of surface area to lose heat (40x40 foot building with 8 foot high walls and flat floor and ceiling.)  The R-value all over this example home is R-20. We’re measuring heat loss in BTUs.

If the outside temperature is 7 degrees, the loss in BTUs would be: 15,372 per hour or 368,928 for a day. That’s 4.6 therms a day from an 80% efficient furnace.

On a warmer day, say 45 degrees, the loss in BTUs would be just 5,600 BTUs per hour or 134,400 BTUs for a day. That’s 1.68 therms a day from an 80% efficient furnace.

So in our little test home, a 7 degree day uses almost 3 times or 300% of the energy of a 45 degree day to stay warm. If you don’t have much insulation in your home and your average R-value is closer to 10, then you would use almost twice as much energy as listed above. 

So, in conclusion, Tom will officially do my math from now on. And when the temperatures dip down low, your home is probably working overtime to keep you toasty.

If you’re interested to getting scientific at your house too, sign up for a Home Energy Audit in Spokane County today and learn where your energy is going. Any Avista customer can also use the Avista Online Home Energy Analyzer for free.
 
Published: 1/12/2011  3:58 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 11 , 2011
Every Little Bit Video Contest
Viewer’s Choice judging is underway in Avista’s Every Little Bit video contest. High school students from throughout Avista’s service territory created more than 60 videos about energy efficiency.
 
The deadline for voting to tomorrow at midnight!
 

Videos can be given one to five stars from viewers and this voting will be used to decide a Viewer’s Choice winning video – and Apple iPod prizes to the winning team.

If you have a few minutes in your day, go to www.everylittlebitvideo.com and take a look at these creative videos. And be sure to rate the videos you watch. Is there a five-star video out there?

The video contest encourages local students to think about energy and efficiency in creative ways and showcase them on video.
 

 
Published: 1/11/2011  2:32 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 10 , 2011

Snowy and cold

 
Manage your comfort and your energy by applying energy efficiency tips and taking advantage of a number of services Avista has to offer

Post by Dan Kolbet

We’re probably going to get down to single digits in the Spokane/CdA area tonight, here are some tips to make it through the chill. We suggest checking your home’s air flow as one way to help stay comfortable while managing your energy bill.

Lineman working in the snow and cold.
Make sure door sweeps are in good condition will help prevent cold air from seeping in under doors. As a temporary measure, roll a towel and place at the base of exterior doors. Other no-cost suggestions include:

-Set your heating thermostat at 68 degrees when you are home and reduce it a few degrees at night and when you are away.

-If you have a ceiling fan, select the setting (forward or reverse) that will disperse the warm air collecting near the ceiling. The winter setting should be such that if you stand under the fan you feel no direct breeze.

-Turn off kitchen, bath and other ventilating fans when you are done.  In one hour, these fans can pull a house full of warm air right out of the home.

-Don’t block heating registers, move furniture to allow heat to flow freely, and make sure all return air openings are unobstructed.

-Consider rearranging furniture so you are not spending time sitting in front of a window.

-Close drapes and blinds to help keep the heat inside and the cold outside.

-Add a sweater and an extra blanket to stay warm rather than adjusting the thermostat. 

-Replace your furnace air filter if you have not done so within the past month.

-Restrict the use of your wood fireplace in extremely cold weather. Fireplaces can rob your home of heat provided by your heating system and reduce your comfort.

Avista offers billing options, such as Comfort Level Billing that can help you manage your energy bill each month. Energy efficiency programs like the home energy analyzer tool and home energy audits, energy efficiency incentives and rebates are also available to help customers manage their electricity and natural gas consumption. Click here to learn more about these programs.
Published: 1/10/2011  4:23 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 07 , 2011
File photo: Natural gas crew working in the field.
An Avista natural gas crew works
to safely connect two sections of
pipe in a trench.
Post by Debbie Simock
 
Today Avista and the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) filed an agreement that the company will pay a $200,000 fine because of a natural gas explosion and fire that injured two people in Odessa, Wash., in December 2008.

The results of independent investigations by UTC staff and Avista determined that a leak in a section of 2-inch gas distribution pipe was the source of the incident, with the leak being caused by a rock impingement on the pipe. The affected 2-inch pipe is a low-pressure distribution line that is significantly smaller than a high-pressure transmission pipeline.

The most important concern for us is the safety of the public and our employees, so thankfully incidents like the one in Odessa are very rare. To keep it that way, we have a number of programs and procedures in place to help maintain a system that is safe and reliable.

For example, every five years we conduct a leak survey on more than 11,000 miles of pipe. We do this by walking every mile of the system with sensitive gas detection equipment. If a problem is found, we fix it. To help ensure public safety and the integrity of our natural gas system, we’ll now be doing annual leak surveys on all of our pipes installed before 1987.

We’ll continue doing our part to deliver safe, reliable natural gas to you, but we can also use your help. The majority of natural gas incidents that happen on our system are caused by third-party dig-ins, so it’s important that you locate all underground natural gas and electric lines before starting any outdoor projects that involve digging. With winter here it may be a while before you start any outdoor projects, but all you need to do to schedule this service is call 811 two days before starting work.

As usual, we’d like to hear from you. So, e-mail the Avista Blog and share your thoughts or questions with us. We guarantee we’ll get back with you.
 
Published: 1/7/2011  3:20 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 05 , 2011
WWP's The Illuminator
The Illuminator was Washington Water Power's
monthly employee publication from the 1920s to the
1980s.
Post by Dan Kolbet
Twitter: @Dan_at_Avista

It’s almost a week into 2011 so you’ve undoubtedly already broken your new year’s resolutions. Don’t feel bad, it happens.

Recently I was digging through Washington Water Power’s employee publication, The Illuminator and ran across some suggested New Year’s resolutions from 1929. The Illuminator was the company’s employee publication from the 1920s to the 1980s.

In the 1920s electric appliances were becoming much more common, but by no means did every home have more than one. People were still learning how to use electricity and WWP was tasked with educating the public about the overall good that electricity would provide daily life.

So, in January 1929 The Illuminator published “Ten Electrical Commandments” for New Year’s resolutions. The crazy thing is, for the most part, these resolutions are all still relevant. Take a look.

1. Thou shalt have no needless drudgery in thy home – delegating to electricity all wearisome tasks.

2. Remember the cellar light – don’t leave it burning.

3. Thou shalt not permit the cords of thy appliances to become frayed and worn, and easy prey to short circuits.

4. Thou shalt not allow the frost to gather to an unseemly depth upon the freezing unit of thy refrigerator.

5. Remember the bag of thy vacuum cleaner to keep it empty.

6. Thou shalt no forget that electricity is cheaper than eyesight, and shall use freely of the first to preserve the second.

7. Thou shalt not tax thy electric circuits beyond their capacity lest they blow out their fuses.

8. Thou shalt not fail to keep extra bulbs in the house against the day when they shall surely be needed.

9. Thou shalt have at least one light in every room controlled by a switch near every door, thus wilt thou save much stubbing of toes and barking of shins.

10.  Thou shalt utilize thy toaster and thy percolator and all thy table appliances to the fullest extent for thus wilt thou add to thy own comfort and thy family’s enjoyment.

See the original article below.
1929's Ten Electrical Commandments

If you were to add new electric and natural gas resolutions in 2011, what would they be? E-mail us.
 

Editor's note: The above information was reprinted for a historical perspective only. Learn more about the latest on electric and natural gas safety and energy efficiency (from this century).

 

Published: 1/5/2011  11:39 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 05 , 2011
WWP's The Illuminator
The Illuminator was Washington Water Power's
monthly employee publication from the 1920s to the
1980s.
Comfort Level Billing helps smooth
the ups and downs of your monthly bill
 
Post by Dan Kolbet

Next week Avista will publish print advertisements in local newspapers and run radio spots reminding customers about our billing assistance options. This time of year is often tough on budgets due to our cold winters. This winter (especially when compared to the previous one) has been rather chilly so the timing couldn’t be better.

A co-worker reminded me yesterday about the history behind our Comfort Level Billing program that allows customers to smooth out the ups and downs of a monthly bill into one similar payment every month. The company – then Washington Water Power – started the program in 1957 as a budget billing system.

Click to read 1957 article
Click above to read the introduction of
Comfort Level Billing from 1957.
Yep, that was 54 years ago when Dwight Eisenhower was in the White House and the company only offered electric service. So if you’re not signed up, it’s not like you haven’t had any time to do it.

Check out this article “Billing System Devised to Ease Customer Payment,” which originally ran in the Washington Water Power employee newsletter, The Illuminator. The program was in its infancy, so a couple of the details have changed since then, but the basic program is the same.
 
Learn more about other billing assistance options here.
Published: 1/5/2011  10:50 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post