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May 07 , 2012
Post by Laurine Jue

Natural gas pipeline work in Davenport.
Natural gas pipeline work near Davenport
Avista is replacing nearly 9 miles of natural gas
pipeline in Davenport, Wash. The project is
estimated to cost more than $3 million. The
work will be conducted May to October.
Bring in the diggers and heavy equipment because construction is underway in Davenport, Wash., as Avista replaces nearly 9 miles of natural gas pipeline that’s approaching the end of its service life. The project carries a price tag of more than $3 million. It’s part of Avista’s commitment to maintain and upgrade our natural gas pipeline system.

From May through October, Avista-authorized contractor Loy Clark will be installing new natural gas pipelines in streets and alleys throughout Davenport.

As we replace the natural gas pipeline one section at a time, Davenport natural gas customers will experience a short interruption of service while we’re working on the natural gas pipeline in a specific area. Customers will be notified two days in advance of working in their neighborhood so they can plan ahead. Once the work is complete and service is restored, qualified Avista personnel or contractors will safely relight appliances, such as water heaters.

Attendance was light when we held an open house at the Davenport Memorial Hall on Wednesday, May 2, to answer questions about the project. Hopefully that means that folks in Davenport are comfortable with the project.

This six-month, $3 million project is just one example of how Avista must continually invest in maintaining and upgrading the natural gas pipelines that allow us to serve our customers.
Published: 5/7/2012  12:14 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 13 , 2012
Wind and solar get the renewable headlines, but what about biomass and hydro?

Post by Dan Kolbet

Renewable Energy
At Avista we like to say that we were founded on renewable hydroelectricity. We’re proud of it. Even today the biggest resource percentage of generated or purchased power comes from hydroelectricity. Yet nationally, renewable energy tends to be framed around wind, solar and sometimes biomass and hydro. Where does Avista, biomass, hydroelectricity and your power fit in the renewable discussion?

Let’s start with hydroelectricity. Unlike much of the country, the Northwest benefits from having abundant hydroelectric resources. It’s good for all of us, because it’s in our backyard. It’s pretty tough to get a new hydroelectric project started in the United States, so the growth in this area generally comes from modernizing generation to make it more efficient. For the past decade or more we’ve been doing just that on the Clark Fork River at our Noxon Rapids and Cabinet Gorge dams.

Some of our hydroelectric dams on the Spokane River are more than 100 years old, and since we need to keep those dams running responsibly and reliably, we’re always looking for ways to improve them. This year, we’re looking at upgrading parts of our Post Falls and Little Falls hydroelectric facilities. There’s no doubt about it, hydroelectricity is an important renewable resource.

Biomass is another example of renewable energy that doesn’t get much of the spotlight. Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant was the first electric generating station of its kind constructed within the United States for the sole purpose of producing electricity from wood waste. It opened in October of 1983 – roughly 29 year ago. That’s a long history of renewable generation. Beginning in 2016 Washington will officially recognize its operations as a renewable resource for the purposes of meeting Washington state Renewable Portfolio Standards (RPS).

Now for the hip, cool kids – wind and solar.

Solar panels
A small solar array is affixed to the top of our
corporate headquarters today. It helps offset the
power we use to charge the
Avista Sun Car.
Let’s talk solar first. Sure, the sun is free, but equipment involved in generating and delivering that power to the grid isn’t free - not by a long shot. In our area, given our other resources (like hydro), utility scale solar power isn’t in the cards, at least not today. We’re always on the lookout for proven resources, so that may change in the future, in fact a small solar array is affixed to the top of our corporate headquarters today. It helps offset the power we use to charge the Avista Sun Car.

Last, but certainly not least in this renewable roundup, is wind. Today Avista doesn’t generate any of its own power via wind, yet we’ve had a long-standing contract to buy wind power from the Stateline Wind Project on the Washington/Oregon border. Soon a new wind farm called Palouse Wind will come online near the town of Oakesdale and State Route 195 on the hills surrounding Naff Ridge. The project is being developed by First Wind, but Avista has secured the rights to its electrical output for next 30 years. Avista has been thinking about how to incorporate wind into our generation mix for several years, so it’s certainly on our minds.

As you can see, from hydro to biomass, and wind to (a little) solar, we’re all over this renewable thing.

For another look at Avista’s power generation and planning for the future, check out our Electric Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). The IRP analyzes and outlines a strategy to meet projected demand and renewable portfolio standards through energy efficiency and a careful mix of qualifying renewable and traditional energy resources

Renewable energy and you
Avista launched a Buck-A-Block voluntary rate program for customers in 2002. The program is still going strong today with thousands of megawatt hours of emission-free wind being purchased annually. Nearly 4,000 customers participate. When you sign up for Buck-A-Block, you make a voluntary payment above and beyond your normal rates. Avista makes no profit from that additional money, which goes to support the renewable energy many of our customers prefer by purchasing environmental offsets from renewable energy generation.
Published: 4/13/2012  12:31 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 13 , 2012
noxon video
 
Four-year, $45 million upgrade nearing completion at Avista’s largest hydroelectric dam

Post by Brandi Smith
 
Noxon Rapids
In February Avista’s Noxon Rapids hydroelectric project, which generates clean, renewable energy reached a big milestone when the last of four original turbines to be replaced was installed. The four-unit, $45 million project started in July 2008 and is on schedule to be finished by spring 2012.

The upgraded units are expected to increase the total generating capacity of the dam by an estimated 30 megawatts. The upgrades enhance Avista’s ability to serve our customers because it lets us generate more power using the same amount of water – enough energy, in fact, to power more than 4,800 homes, or a town nearly the same size as Rathdrum, Idaho. Another benefit: this additional energy qualifies under Washington State’s Energy Independence Act (RCW 19.285) to meet Avista’s Washington state-mandated renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements.

Avista continues to generate or purchase about half of our energy with hydroelectric power. Investing in our hydroelectric dams makes good sense – some of them are more than 100 years old – and it’s a continual process.

You can sense a pride of ownership from the crew featured in the above video. Many of these employees, who worked to remove and replace the old turbine, have been working on hydroelectric generation projects for many years. When the Noxon Rapids work is complete, these employees will move onto other projects, but their legacy will live on in the additional energy they helped produce.
Published: 4/13/2012  12:14 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Apr 02 , 2012
We need to invest about $250 million each year over the next five years to continue updating and maintaining our system to serve our customers’ energy needs
 

Noxon Rapids Unit 4 turbine
The new Noxon Rapids Dam Unit 4 turbine is
lowered into place earlier this year. This 4-year,
$45-million project is coming to a close in 2012.
Pole replacement
An employee works to replace old wooden poles
(left) with a new steel structure (right). Steel
structures are more expensive, but typically last
longer than wooden ones.
New power lines
A line crew runs a new, higher-gauge power lines
over a two block distance in downtown Spokane.
Work like this ensures a more reliable system
that’s ready when you need it.
Working safely
An employee wears protective gear while using a
grinder at a natural gas job site in Spokane
Valley. We do our best to work safely on the
system that delivers you energy. 
Today Avista filed requests with the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission to increase overall net electric rates by 5.9 percent, and natural gas rates by 6.8 percent in Washington only. The UTC has up to 11 months to review the filings and issue a decision.
 
What does this mean to you? If you’re an Avista electric customer in Washington with average use and the Commission approves the requests, you would see an increase of $4.94 per month or about 16 cents a day, for a revised bill of $83.91. If you’re a natural gas customer in Washington with average use, you would see an increase of $4.23, or about 14 cents a day, for a revised monthly bill of $65.78.

So why is Avista asking for more rate increases? The simple answer is that it costs more each year to provide safe, reliable energy to you. Meeting our customers’ energy needs reliably and responsibly, while still complying with state and federal requirements, is our first obligation, even when it costs more.

About 40 percent of your electric bill and 35 percent of your natural gas bill covers the cost of delivery – the equipment and people needed to provide safe, reliable energy service to you. Maintaining and updating our generation plants (some that are more than 100 years old) and substations, along with more than 18,000 miles of power lines, a quarter of a million poles, and nearly 8,000 miles of gas pipeline, is a big job that doesn’t stop, and one that costs more each year. When we replace or update old equipment with new equipment and technology, it costs many times more than when it was installed. It’s much like when you update your older home or vehicle. Imagine replacing flooring, cabinets and appliances in a kitchen built 40 years ago, and how much more those items cost today than they did in the 1970s.

This was the primary reason for the proposed increase in our last request and we expect it to continue to cause a need for increased rates in the future. We’ll need to invest about $250 million each year over the next five years to continue updating and maintaining our system to serve our customers’ energy needs. And, while our customers still pay some of the lowest prices in the northwest, we’re not the only utility facing rising costs and an aging system.

Keeping rates increases as low as possible
Even so, we work hard to manage our own costs and keep rate increases as low as possible. In the filings, Avista proposed a proposed one-year Energy Recovery Mechanism bill decrease, which is a rebate to customers based on power supply costs, to help offset the increase. About 60 percent of a customer’s electric bill and 65 percent of a natural gas bill is the cost of generating or purchasing electricity and purchasing natural gas to meet customer needs. Power supply costs were lower in 2011, due to factors such as declining natural gas prices and favorable hydroelectric conditions.

We also proposed through this request to help ease the burden of the increase on low-income customers with increased funding for Avista’s energy assistance programs.

Don’t forget, Avista offers services for customers such as comfort level billing, payment arrangements and Customer Assistance Referral and Evaluation Services (CARES), which provides assistance to special-needs customers through referrals to area agencies and churches for help with housing, utilities, medical assistance and other needs. To learn more, visit www.avistautilities.com.

Executive salaries in Wash. rates aren’t going up
So what about executive salaries, and how much do the salaries and incentives of our executive officers affect your rates? Not as much as you might think. Avista has proposed that the amount of executive officer salaries and incentives included in rates remain at their 2011 levels.

Approximately 25% of total officer salary and incentives is included in Washington retail rates, which makes up less than ½ a penny of every dollar you pay in rates. This adds up to about 40 cents of your monthly bill if you’re an electric customer with average use, and less than 75 cents if you get both electric and natural gas service. The bottom line is executive salaries aren’t driving energy costs up, rather it’s the rising costs of doing business and taking care of our system.

We realize in these difficult economic times it can be a struggle for people to pay their energy bills. We’ll keep working to reduce costs and improve efficiency while continuing to provide reliable, responsible energy at some of the lowest prices in the Northwest.
 
Published: 4/2/2012  12:57 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 21 , 2012
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge

Post by Dan Kolbet

Avista worked with crews for Northern Pipeline to relocate almost 2,000 feet of six-inch high pressure main in White City, Oregon over the last month. Work like this helps create reliable service for Avista natural gas customers.
 
This particular project, which shows your rate dollars at work, is estimated to cost around $250,000. These photos show some of the progress happening in the shadow of Mt. McLoughlin.
Published: 3/21/2012  2:52 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 15 , 2012
Flickr slideshow
 
New poles and electric lines assure an efficient electric delivery system

Reliability: Click to View Service Territory Map
As you head west on East Sprague Avenue in the Spokane Valley over the next two to three months, you may notice some construction activity with Avista Utilities trucks and crews working in the area.

In order to continue to serve you with safe, reliable electricity, we’re replacing two miles of old wooden poles with new ones. We are also replacing old, smaller wire with larger wire, which increases the efficiency of our delivery of energy to your homes and businesses. The power lines we are working on provide electricity to the entire Sprague/Appleway corridor and the adjacent areas.

The cost of delivering safe, reliable energy includes maintaining a huge system of pipes, poles, generation facilities and substations. Many parts of our system are 30, 40 and even 50 years old.

What you are witnessing in Spokane Valley and throughout our service territory are your rate dollars at work to provide safe and reliable service.

Upgrades to our infrastructure, such as this two-mile pole and wire replacement project, make up around 40 percent of your bill – the cost of delivering energy, serving our customers and energy conservation. The other 60 percent is the cost of the energy itself – the cost of generating or purchasing electricity.

So the next time you see projects like the one on Sprague, you’ll get a up close and personal view of the kind of work we do all the time to make sure you have safe, reliable and efficient energy to your home or business.

For more stories about reliability, renewable energy, the environment, community, rates and more, visit us here at the Avista Blog often.

Much of this blog post was originally posted on Feb. 15, 2012.

 
Facebook
Published: 3/15/2012  2:35 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Mar 02 , 2012
video

Crews reflect on work while installing finishing touches on four-year, $45 million project

Post by Anna Scarlett, Video by Dan Kolbet
 
Autographing turbine
An Avista employee signs Unit 4’s new turbine with
a paint pen prior to its insertion at Noxon Rapids
Dam. They don’t usually autograph their work in this
way, but the project has lasted four years and this
was the last new turbine installed at Noxon, so the
crew wanted to mark the occasion.
It’s a complicated job to turn water, wind, natural gas, coal, or even sunshine into reliable energy. It takes a lot of people and equipment and it doesn’t come free. In fact, about 60 cents of every dollar you pay each month in your electric bill is simply the cost of power, whether it’s power Avista generates at our plants or power we buy on the market.

Avista continues to generate or purchase about half of our energy with hydroelectric power, one of the cleanest, most dependable and most cost-effective energy resources. Investing in our hydroelectric dams makes good sense – some of them are more than 100 years old – and it’s a continual process.

In the case of Noxon Rapids, Avista’s largest hydroelectric dam, in 2012 we’ll be wrapping up our four-year, $45 million project to upgrade all four original generating units, which were installed in the late 1950s, with new turbines. The result? We can make more energy using the same amount of water – enough energy, in fact, to power more than 4,800 homes, or a town nearly the same size as Rathdrum, Idaho. Another benefit: this additional energy qualifies under Washington State’s Energy Independence Act (RCW 19.285) to meet Avista’s Washington state-mandated renewable portfolio standard (RPS) requirements.

The new turbines boast features such as smooth edges and corners and a stainless steel body that weighs just 65 tons (as opposed to the old turbines, massive beasts that weighed around 120 tons.) Removing the old turbines and installing the new ones took thousands of hours of skilled labor and craftsmanship, and many of the crew members have been involved throughout the entire project. Watch the final turbine being installed at Noxon Rapids, and hear from some of the folks that helped make it happen. These are your energy dollars at work.
 
Watch an interview with project engineer P.J. Henscheid as the old Unit 4 turbine is removed back in fall 2011.
Published: 3/2/2012  9:00 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Feb 15 , 2012
photos
 
New poles and electric lines mean a more efficient electric delivery system
 
As you head west on East Sprague Avenue in the Spokane Valley over the next three to four months, you may notice some construction activity with Avista trucks and crews working in the area.

In order to better serve you with safe, reliable electricity, we’re replacing two miles of old wooden poles with new ones. We are also replacing old, smaller wire with larger wire, which increases the efficiency of our delivery of energy to your homes and businesses. The power lines we are working on provide electricity to the entire Sprague/Appleway corridor and the adjacent areas.

The cost of delivering safe, reliable energy includes maintaining a huge system of pipes, poles, generation facilities and substations. Many parts of our system are 30, 40 and even 50 years old.

What you are witnessing is your rate dollars at work to provide safe and reliable service.

Upgrades to our infrastructure, such as this two-mile pole and wire replacement project, make up around 40 percent of your bill – the cost of delivering energy, serving our customers and energy conservation. The other 60 percent is the cost of the energy itself – the cost of generating or purchasing electricity.

So the next time you see projects like the one on Sprague, you’ll get a up close and personal view of the kind of work we do all the time to make sure you have safe, reliable and efficient energy to your home or business.

Some quick facts about delivering energy to you:
• Avista provides electric service to 357,000 customers and natural gas 317,000 homes and businesses across 30,000 square miles. Our service territory spans portions of three states.
• Distribution lines: Avista has more than 18,000 miles of distribution lines traveling from substations to homes and businesses.
• Avista has more than 240,000 distribution wood poles and 33,000 transmission wood poles in its electric system. The average distribution pole costs about $620 each.
• About 68 percent of the wood poles supporting Avista’s 230kV transmission lines are at least 45 years old.
Published: 2/15/2012  2:42 PM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Feb 02 , 2012
Attention and care for customer's bungalow and garden were integral to Smart Circuits project
 
 
Customer home and garden
Avista crews took careful measures recently to ensure
no damage was done to a customer’s historic 1912
bungalow and garden during the installation of a
utility pole nearby. The work was part of Avista’s
Smart Circuits project. We listened to our customer’s
concerns and modified our plan to everyone’s
satisfaction. It might be a big project, but we know
how much each interaction matters.

Have you had a similar experience with Avista?
Let us know.
Poles and electric wires – up above, down below, on the street and by your home. It’s a necessity, and a fundamental part of our business. So every day, Avista is out in neighborhoods placing poles and wires, or replacing them as they age or when new technology comes out to serve you better.

The work we do could literally be in your own back yard – and we want you to be happy with it. Such was the case with Avista customers, Jim and Ann Price, whose historic 1912 bungalow and garden in Spokane had to be accessed in order to place a new pole in a utility easement on his property. The job also entailed removing a very old pole from an adjoining lot.

This specific work, which is part of the Spokane Smart Circuits project, is part of a design to replace large power lines that connect different areas of our system on the South Hill.

The couple was concerned about how Avista and other contractors were going to bring the equipment in on their property to place the pole. Typical equipment used to place power poles would not be able to negotiate the small gravel driveway without threatening irreparable harm to either the bungalow or the garden.

The Construction Project Coordinator for the project, John Hanna, took the time to listen to the couple and work with them.

“After listening to the Mr. Price’s concerns, I assured him of two things,” Hanna said. “First, he would be informed of our plan throughout the entirety of the project, and secondly, we were not done until he was satisfied.”

Hanna, along with a team consisting of Avista Real Estate Representative Claude Kahler, Electric Inspector Joe Vigliotta, Mountain Power Line Foreman Rick Larson, and Asplundh Tree Foreman Steve Guiterez and Work Planner Zeb Rosenthal worked with the customer and created an alternative plan.

According to Jim Price, "The men devoted a great deal of time and attention to seeing that care of our property was an important part of the project ... all of the workers were pleasant, considerate and informative."

Workers dug the hole for the pole by hand and with a jackhammer, instead of using an excavator as they normally would. Aside from a small cart and crane to transport and place the pole, no other trucks or mechanical equipment entered the property.

From beginning to end, work caused minimal disruption and no damage to the bungalow or the customer's garden.

In addition, Hanna and the customer agreed that the best use of the customer’s pine tree that was removed during the project was to donate it as firewood to SNAP. Hanna arranged for four supervised inmates from Geiger Correctional Facility to pick up and deliver the firewood to SNAP. He even surprised the inmates with doughnuts to say “thank you.”

The work done is a great example of how Avista employees work with customers, other businesses and the community to improve the quality of life and energy.

Have you had a similar experience?
Let us help share the story. Email us to share your story.
About Avista’s Smart Circuits project
Avista’s Smart Circuits project is all about upgrading electric facilities in the Spokane area to support the technologies of today and tomorrow. Ultimately, this work will result in greater energy efficiency in our delivery of energy. Improving our equipment with smarter technology delays the need for new generation facilities, which is very costly to build. Upgrading our electric facilities with smarter technology also makes future integration of renewable generation resources possible. To learn more about our smart grid projects, visit www.avistautilities.com, keyword: smart grid.
 
Published: 2/2/2012  11:01 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

Jan 18 , 2012
H95
 
Video by Dan Kolbet
 
If you’ve traveled along Highway 95 in North Idaho by Silverwood recently, you may have seen Avista natural gas crews working alongside 6 miles of the busy highway. The Idaho Department of Transportation is reconstructing a portion of Highway 95 from approximately Chilco to Athol. 

Avista has to move its existing pipeline and is expanding the capacity of the pipeline from 3 to 6 inches. Expanded capacity helps serve existing customer needs and helps prepare infrastructure for the future. The estimated cost for this project is around $1.4 million. Part of Avista's requests for customer rate adjustments typically includes infrastructure work like this project.
 
Check out the video which was shot in early January 2012. Learn more about the project and view pictures here.

 
Published: 1/18/2012  8:19 AM | 0  Comments | 0  Links to this post

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