Nov 06 , 2012
was recently honored with a special recognition award from the judges of the Green Washington Awards, sponsored by Seattle Business magazine
. Avista was also named to the list of the 50 greenest companies in the state of Washington.
Making the special award, magazine executive editor Leslie Helm said, “Avista, which has been providing power to much of eastern Washington and northwest Idaho since 1889, prides itself on its history of clean power generation. And it takes sustainability seriously, ranking as the nation’s third lowest emitter of CO2 (in pounds per megawatt hour) amongst investor-owned utilities. It’s known for being a proponent of renewable energy ... and the company has long championed the use of wind power. Avista is also renowned for building the nation’s first biomass-fueled power generation plant.”
Accepting the award on behalf of Avista, President Dennis Vermillion said, “We are very pleased to be recognized in the Green Washington Awards and to be among the top sustainability performers in Washington. Our employees are some of the brightest and most talented of any company I know.
“For us, doing business responsibly means doing it in ways that have the least impact on the environment and the most positive impact on our customers and communities. This kind of shared value
is the backbone of our company.”
Nov 01 , 2012
New, lower rates start today
If you’re an Avista natural gas customer in Washington, we’ve got good news for you as we head into the colder months of fall and winter. Beginning today and through the rest of the year, depending on your energy usage, you’ll see lower natural gas rates. That’s because last week, the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission approved our Sept. 13 request to reduce natural gas rates in Washington by an overall 4.4 percent.
Rates for our natural gas customers in Washington and Idaho have decreased twice this year because of lower wholesale prices. Overall, natural gas rates in Washington have dropped by about 11 percent in 2012.
Today’s decreases are mostly because of lower natural gas prices. You might remember we reduced natural gas rates for Washington customers in March by 6.4 percent. Like then, abundant supplies of natural gas and lower demand have continued to push wholesale natural gas prices downward. That’s good news. Why? Because we pass those savings directly through to you through Purchased Gas Cost Adjustments, or PGAs, such as this one.
The combined costs of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and having it transported to our distribution system for delivery to you is about 55 percent of your natural gas bill – or 55 cents of every dollar you pay for natural gas.
With the new rates, if you’re a residential customer in Washington using an average of 68 therms per month, you’ll see a decrease of $2.58 starting today, for a revised monthly bill of $58.18.
If you’re a commercial customer, you can expect decreases of 5.1 percent for large general service schedule 111, 5.7 percent for extra large general service schedule 121 and 8.0 percent for interruptible sales service schedule 131.
What about rate increases?
Wondering how this decrease is related to news you’ve heard about upcoming rate increases? Recently, Avista announced a settlement with various parties in our general rate case in Washington. The settlement, if approved by the commission, would increase electric rates by 2.0%, and natural gas rates by 3.6% beginning Jan. 1, 2013. This natural gas rate change in the settlement is related to owning and operating the natural gas system, and is separate from the cost of the natural gas itself.
Even if proposed rate increases are approved and take effect in January, your natural gas rates at the beginning of 2013 will still be well below where they were at the beginning of 2012.
The good news is our customers have been seeing the benefits of increased natural gas supply and lower prices for some time. In fact, Avista pays some of the lowest wholesale natural gas prices among our utility peers in the region. It means our customers continue to have some of the lowest natural gas rates in the country.
Did you know if you’re a Washington natural gas customer, your rates are at levels similar to those from 2003, and even less when you adjust for inflation? This is mostly because of the declining prices of natural gas on the wholesale market. In fact, when adjusted for inflation, natural gas rates in both Idaho and Washington have stayed fairly level over the past 50 years.
Read more about natural gas pricing in our thee-part Avista blog series
that helps explain the three main drivers of your natural gas energy bill – wholesale gas costs, fixed transportation costs, and equipment and people.
Oct 22 , 2012
Settlement provides more certainty for you to manage your energy costs over the next two years
Post by Anna Scarlett
Today we announced a settlement agreement with several parties on the electric and natural gas general rate requests we filed back in April. The settlement, if approved by the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (WUTC), would mean a modest two-phase rate increase in electric and natural gas rates. The first would take effect Jan. 1, 2013 and the second on Jan. 1 of 2014.
Better yet, we’ve agreed not to request additional general rate increases that would take effect before Jan. 1 of 2015. This doesn’t mean we wouldn’t adjust rates based on wholesale natural gas costs before then (remember, that’s a separate part of your bill). For more information about how we adjust those costs, read our Natural Gas Pricing 101 series.
But what it does mean is that you’ll have more certainty in your energy rates for the next two years, so you can better plan to manage your energy costs. And your energy prices will still be among the lowest in the nation.
The bottom line
If the commission approves the settlement and you are an Avista electric customer, you would see two separate rate increases:
· Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, if you use an average of 989 kilowatt hours a month, you would see an increase of $1.20 per month, which equates to about 4 cents a day, for a revised bill of $78.69.
· Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, if you use an average of 989 kilowatt hours a month, you would see an additional increase of $1.60 per month, or about 5 cents a day, for a revised bill of $80.29.
Here’s how the changes, if approved, would affect you as a natural gas customer:
· Beginning Jan. 1, 2013, the first 70 therms of your bill would actually cost a little less. This means an average monthly bill for 68 therms would decrease by about 38 cents to $60.37. For every therm you use over 70, you would see an increase of about 10 cents per month. So, if your usage is less than 70 therms a month, through energy efficiency efforts, for example, you will really see the benefit of this change.
· Beginning Jan. 1, 2014, if you use an average of 68 therms a month, you would see an increase of 57 cents a month, or about 2 cents a day, for a revised monthly bill of $60.94.
The settlement and what’s next
You may be wondering what a rate case settlement agreement is and how it all works. When Avista files a request to increase rates, it goes through a process much like a legal proceeding. Parties representing various groups including residential, small-business, low-income, and natural gas industrial customers, take part and submit testimony and proposals on behalf of their groups.
The commission oversees this process, and is charged with setting rates that are fair, just, and reasonable for customers, while allowing Avista the opportunity to earn a fair return on the investment shareholders make so we can continue delivering safe, reliable energy. When we can reach an agreement like this one, it saves time and the cost of a fully litigated rate case. It is ultimately up to the commission to approve the request.
In addition to Avista, the parties to the proposed settlement are the Staff of the WUTC, Northwest Industrial Gas Users, Industrial Customers of Northwest Utilities and The Energy Project, a low-income customer advocacy group. The Public Counsel Section of the Washington Office of the Attorney General and the Northwest Energy Coalition did not join in the Settlement Agreement. The WUTC sets the schedule for next steps, which include hearing testimony from the parties. For more information, see the WUTC website.
Here are a couple of other resources about how energy rates are set that you might find helpful.
WUTC video: What’s Up (and Down) with Energy Rates?
Avista Rates and Pricing: What’s Driving the Cost of Energy?
Oct 09 , 2012
I-937 requires Avista to have 3 percent eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits (RECs) or a combination of both in 2012
Avista’s been generating renewable energy for a long time – after all we were founded on hydropower more than a century ago. But starting in 2012 renewable energy has officially become a required part of our energy portfolio.
In addition to meeting our customers’ energy needs, Avista has to meet renewable portfolio standards detailed in Washington’s Energy Independence Act. Washington state voters approved the act with the passage of Initiative-937 in 2006. It requires us to use eligible renewable resources, renewable energy credits (RECs) or a combination of both to meet the following annual targets: 3 percent of energy used to meet customer demand by Jan. 1, 2012, 9 percent by Jan. 1, 2016 and 15 percent by Jan. 1, 2020.
We will meet the majority of our 2012 requirements simply by doing what we had already planned to do – upgrading our hydroelectric dams, primarily those on the Clark Fork River
. We upgraded the generating units at Cabinet Gorge Dam from 2001 to 2007, replacing the original turbines, which were installed in the 1950s. And at Noxon Rapids Dam, we just finished upgrading all four original generating units with new turbines. We did this work to extend the life and capacity of our dams. And with the modern turbines, we can generate more energy using the same amount of water. Better yet, since the upgrades were done after 1999, the additional energy qualified as an eligible renewable resource to meet our state mandates.
The next big deadline will be 2016, and while it’s still a few years away, we’ve been planning for it for some time. Over the past several years, we followed the market and looked for opportunities to incorporate additional cost-effective sources of renewable power. Lower costs of developing wind power facilities and ongoing tax incentives set to expire at the end of 2012 led us to a request for proposals in early 2011, and later that year we signed a power purchase agreement with the Palouse Wind Project, which has the added benefit of being located in our service territory. Palouse Wind
has added value in the form of the renewable energy credits it provides. From time to time, we sell surplus RECs that result from the generation of power from renewable resources that exceed our need to meet state requirements. Sales of excess credits help offset and lower power costs for customers.
A more recent accomplishment gives us even more flexibility in meeting our renewable energy mandates. As one of the first biomass plants of its kind in the country, Kettle Falls has been generating renewable, dependable energy for more than 25 years. We’ve been working since 2008 to get the energy generated at Kettle Falls recognized in Washington state as renewable, and in March of 2012, Washington Governor Christine Gregoire signed SB 5575 into law. The bill qualifies biomass energy projects built before 1999 as eligible renewable resources. As a result of the bill’s passage, the energy generated at Avista’s Kettle Falls biomass plant will qualify to meet our renewable requirements beginning in 2016. This will save our customers millions of dollars that we might otherwise have to spend to acquire or build more renewable energy to meet our state mandates.
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
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.
Aug 28 , 2012
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.”
Aug 17 , 2012
Aug 03 , 2012
Rosalia, Whitman County already benefiting economically
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.
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.
Aug 01 , 2012
Partnership formed to manage approximately 2,000 acres of Avista and DNR property around Nine Mile Dam and Lake Spokane
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.
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
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