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Jun 01 , 2011

The Avista Blog

Post by Dan Kolbet
Today marks the two year anniversary of the Avista Blog – the centerpiece of Avista’s social media work. You have said that they want to hear more from us about the issues impacting energy and our industry, and one of the channels we use is social media. I’m glad you’re here and have continued to visit us over the last two years.

The fact that the blog has lasted two years is a testament to our mutual commitment to engage online and to provide information and conversation in the manner you enjoy. I know you find value in online channels and are increasingly turning to them for news and information. We redirect folks back to this blog a lot during conversations on Twitter and comment boards.

The blog consistently receives thousands of views each month from customers. It’s designed to work as the center of a wheel with many spokes. Encircling the blog are three company Twitter accounts, comments on external media sites, Facebook, videos, podcasts, images and e-mail. Check out this video from early 2010, that details the social media program at that time.

Social Media Links
Avista on YouTube: AvistaUtilities 
Happy Birthday Avista Blog!
Published: 6/1/2011  9:43 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 27 , 2011

Noxon Rapids Dam

Post by Brandi Smith

One safe group!
The group was officially recognized for their milestone
at one of their routine monthly safety meetings.
Pride in their work and respect for one another is the perfect description of the crew of 13 employees at Noxon Rapids Dam who have gone 7,300 days without a lost-time accident. That’s 20 years and counting--an impressive feat considering the amount of work that has been taking place over the last few years to upgrade the 51-year-old structure as well as the amount of contract employees who rotate through the facility. So far, they have completed three out of four unit upgrades without a recordable accident or injury.

Noxon Unit 3 removal
“Safety at Noxon is a mind-set and a group effort above all else,” said Chief Operator Pat Kelly who will be retiring after 30 years of service with Avista this June. He attributes their successful safety record to the good old adage that anything worth doing is worth doing right the first time. The close knit group talks about safety on a daily basis, evaluating hazards and discussing near misses.

“This record is secondary to the people who work here and go home safe and sound at the end of the day,” said Kelly. “We watch out for one another and pay close attention to safety procedures. If we identify a source or area for potential injury, we talk about it and make it safe.”

In addition to generating an excellent safety culture, Noxon Rapids Dam is widely known throughout Avista as our workhorse with a generating capacity of 562.4 Megawatts.
Published: 5/27/2011  3:56 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 23 , 2011
Crews replacing transformers
Above, crews complete the transformer replacement
project. Below are the type of transformers that were
Post by Brandi Smith

Avista is made up of many dedicated employees who are committed to doing whatever it takes to provide outstanding service for you. We don’t like to brag too often, but there are instances when even we can’t resist the urge to share a great story.

Lamont Miles is a construction manager in our St. Maries service territory. More often than not, his crews are busy with the challenging work thrown at them day to day in this rural area. It’s rare, but there are also times when there are lulls in the schedule. St. Maries isn’t exactly a bustling metropolis. So Miles sought out additional work for his employees from the Coeur d’ Alene construction office.

As it turned out, Coeur d’ Alene had 260 transformers containing polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB’s) that needed removed and replaced. They did not have the capacity to do this required work themselves, so the job was going to go out to bid to a contractor.

To maintain a consistent level of service across our three-state service territory, it is not typical to borrow or shift around resources from distant offices to get work done except for emergency outage situations. With that said, Avista is constantly looking for ways to be more efficient. In this case, given that the St. Maries crew had the capacity to do the work and was not too far away, it made economical sense to pool resources to get the job done in-house.

Miles also offered up his engineering design services, saving the Coeur d’ Alene office a substantial amount of time. Because of the drive time into Coeur d’Alene, the crews worked an atypical shift as well - four ten-hour days.

Stories like this happen all the time, but it’s just not something we talk about a lot. Yet, this is a simple example of Avista employees going the extra mile to use resources more efficiently in order to benefit you - our customers.
Published: 5/23/2011  3:58 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 19 , 2011
Video showcase
Post by Dan Kolbet

WA electric rate case components
We created the above videos to help showcase some of the projects and pieces of infrastructure that are included in our recent rate filing in Washington. These filings can be complicated and I personally like seeing the visuals.

The first video, called Reliability and the Cost of Your Energy, focuses on infrastructure, which means ensuring you have reliable power. There are also videos that feature renewable hydropower projects at Nine Mile Falls and Noxon Rapids dams.

I also included a video I shot last year near Potlatch, Idaho. It isn’t directly tied to the Washington rate case, but it shows the extent a wind event can have on Avista’s infrastructure. The audio quality is pretty terrible thanks to the wind, so hang in there when you watch it.

Also in there is a video that explains how general rate cases work. And a safety video about how we work with first responders and natural gas.

The graphic to the right shows how the proposed Washington electric increase breaks down. We don’t have a graphic for the natural gas portion of the case, but a good deal of it is to recover the cost of a portion of the gas stored in the Jackson Prairie Storage facility.

If you have any questions about the rate case, send us an e-mail.
Published: 5/19/2011  9:36 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 17 , 2011
Read post
Post by Dan Kolbet
The Kootenai Environmental Alliance (KEA) has a nice blog post about how community action, Avista and KEA helped save a few homeless osprey in Idaho. Check out the story here.
I first heard about this a few weeks back when the word started getting passed around on twitter. I’m glad Avista could help out. This story shows how like-minded folks can accomplish a lot.
Published: 5/17/2011  2:07 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 16 , 2011
Today Avista files for electric and natural gas rate increase in Washington
Post by Debbie Simock

When you need energy, you expect it to be there. That’s reliability. And, making sure it’s there is our job. A key to ensuring that happens is having infrastructure – poles, pipes, wires, transformers, substations, equipment and generating facilities – in place that can reliably do the job and continue to meet the growing demand for energy.

Old transformer
Can you guess how old this transformer is?
Hint – Harry Truman was President of the United
States. This transformer has been in continuous
service since 1947 and is one example of the
need to replace aging infrastructure to ensure
That’s why we’re investing approximately $250 million in our utility infrastructure in 2011.

The cost of upgrading equipment today is significantly more expensive than the equipment being replaced, some of which has been serving customers for 40 to 70 years. These increased costs are the major driver in the request we filed today with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) to increase electric rates by an overall 8.7 percent and overall 4.0 percent for natural gas. Read more in the news release. 
If approved it would increase the bill for a residential electric customer using an average 977 kilowatt hours per month by $7.13 per month, or 9.3 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $84.14. For natural gas it would increase the bill for a residential customer using an average of 67 therms a month by $3.26, or 5.1 percent, for a revised monthly bill of $66.71.

Rates are going up for customers across the U.S. and we know that any increase in rates can be a challenge for customers. That’s why we are committed to offering energy efficiency programs for all customers and to supporting energy assistance services that help those residential customers who are most impacted by rising prices.

We’re here to answer your questions and provide information about our energy future. Take a few minutes to watch the short Take a Closer Look at How Rates are Set video. There, you’ll also learn more about What’s Driving the Cost of Energy and the work we’re doing to ensure that you have the reliable energy you expect.
Published: 5/16/2011  1:10 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 10 , 2011
Lake Spokane
High water flows prompt action
Post by Anna Scarlett 
Avista will be drawing down the elevation of Lake Spokane (also known as Long Lake) over the next several days, in order to perform maintenance work required as a result of the current and projected high flows on the Spokane River.

As of May 9, the level of Lake Spokane was about 1,535 feet, which is about 1 foot below its normal summer elevation. We expect to decrease the level of the reservoir to bring it to an elevation approximately 3 feet below normal summer level by Thursday, and will return the reservoir to approximately 1 foot below its summer elevation beginning next week.

Due to high seasonal snowpack and warmer temperatures, the National Weather Service is predicting rapidly increasing river flows and high water on the Spokane River over the next several weeks. Avista operators at our Spokane River hydroelectric facilities, which include Post Falls, Upper Falls, Monroe Street, and our downstream dams, Nine Mile and Long Lake, work together to coordinate spilling so that we operate efficiently and manage reservoir levels. However, we want to remind you that weather conditions can cause river and reservoir levels to change rapidly, so please use caution on the water and comply with all posted notices and closures.

Avista wants you to stay safe during your spring and summer activities on area reservoirs and waterways. Please remember, especially during spring run-off, the waters near a dam can contain hidden dangers. Swirling water, submerged objects, strong currents and open spill gates can pose serious hazards to boaters and other recreationists, and sudden discharges of water from spillways and turbines can rapidly increase water levels and river flows. You can always check river and lake levels on our website at, or by calling 509-495-8043 or 208-769-1357.

We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause, and appreciate your understanding as we perform necessary maintenance and operations of our hydroelectric facilities on the Spokane River.

If you have any questions about this drawdown, please send us an e-mail.
Published: 5/10/2011  12:27 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 10 , 2011
Post by Dan Kolbet 
Award picture
From left: Avista Utilities President Dennis Vermillion,
Hometown Heroes award recipient and Avista
Journeyman Gas Don Galloway and Palouse
Operations Manager Jenny Blaylock.
The American Red Cross of Greater Idaho recently honored Avista Journeyman Gas Don Galloway and two other individuals for their lifesaving efforts at the scene of a car accident last summer. Galloway was in the right place at the right time with the right training to make a big difference.

At a reception in Clarkston in late March, Galloway was presented the 2011 Local Disaster Heroes award. Thirteen other local residents were honored for their individual work as well.

The Hometown Heroes event “honors these men and women, our friends, neighbors and co-workers who made a life-saving difference to our community," said Deborah Snyder, North Central Idaho District Manager of the Red Cross.

Galloway’s actions
On Sunday, June 27, 2010, Galloway, who works in Pullman, was travelling on Hwy 95 south of Moscow when he came across two vehicles in a ditch, located only a few feet apart. They appeared to have been in a head-on collision. Two other passersby joined Galloway on scene.

One of the vehicles was on fire with an unconscious driver inside. Attempts to remove the driver were unsuccessful. He was pinned inside as the fire rapidly engulfed the vehicle. The driver died at the scene.

The other vehicle, a pick-up truck, had four passengers, three of which were able to exit the vehicle, but the driver remained trapped. They couldn’t get the driver-side door open and were forced to use the passenger-side exit, which was just feet from the burning vehicle next to it. As they moved to the passenger side of the truck, it also started on fire. Thankfully they were able to remove the driver and get him safely away from the burning vehicles.

Galloway stayed with the driver of the second vehicle until emergency medical technicians arrived. He kept the driver still and asked him questions to keep him conscious, while directing others to put compresses, towels and blankets on cuts and abrasions.

Galloway said his First Aid training was the key to him remaining calm and focused on the rescued driver. Tom Jannings, Safety and Health Specialist, nominated Galloway for the award.
Published: 5/10/2011  8:57 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

May 02 , 2011
Customers continue benefiting from rebate and incentive programs to reduce energy use
Post by Debbie Simock 
Avista natural gas customers in Washington and Idaho could see a decrease in their natural gas rates beginning July 1, if the public utility commissions in the two states approve the company’s request to reduce the natural gas portion of the company’s tariff-funded energy efficiency rebate and incentive programs.

The decrease is being requested to true-up the amount of funding for the program with the amount paid out in natural gas rebates and incentives to participating customers. The request is part of Avista’s annual report to Washington and Idaho regulators regarding the funding of the company’s energy efficiency programs. Avista has not requested to change the current electric energy efficiency tariff.

Natural gas customers in Washington would see an overall 2.9 percent decrease, or $1.66 a month decrease for residential customers using 67 therms, if Avista’s request is approved. Idaho natural gas customers would see an overall 4.2 percent decrease, or $2.41 a month decrease for a residential customer using an average 63 therms, if approved. These tariff adjustments have no impact on company earnings.

"Customers want to save energy, and they look to us for energy efficiency expertise as well as rebates and incentives,” said Patrick Lynch, Avista’s director of energy solutions. “Making efficiency improvements is a smart choice that helps customers reduce their energy use and reduce the amount of future energy generation required to meet growing energy needs.”

Last year customers in Avista’s three-state service area received over 42,000 rebates and incentives totaling almost $19 million The energy savings are enough to power over 5,700 Inland Northwest homes for a year and serve 3,100 homes with natural gas for a year, or almost 69,000 megawatt hours and 2.3 million therms of natural gas.

Of the rebates paid in 2010, over 28,000 were to Washington customers totaling $13.1 million, over 12,000 rebates to Idaho customers totaling $4.8 million, and Oregon customers received 2,400 rebates totaling $956,000. The most popular energy and cost-saving measures for residential customers included purchasing Energy Star ® appliances, installing high efficiency natural gas furnaces, and upgrading windows and insulation. The average residential rebate for single family homes was $131.

Approximately $1.5 million was provided for weatherization for qualifying low-income customers in Washington and $465,000 for Idaho customers. An additional $25,000 was provided for conservation education for Idaho customers.

Information on energy efficiency rebates and incentives Avista offers for residential, commercial and low-income customers is available at, along with other energy-saving information.
Published: 5/2/2011  1:27 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post