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Posts tagged: Avista Utilities

In the 1990s Gen. Schwarzkopf sat on the Washington Water Power board

As just a little footnote to the obituary of former U.S. Army General Norman Schwarzkopf, we'll mention that the guy served for more than three years on the board of Washington Water Power, now Avista.

In 1997 SR business writer Bert Caldwell took note of Mr. Schwarzkopf's departure from the utility's board:

Gen. H. Norman Schwarzkopf will step down from the Washington Water Power Co. board of directors in May after four years of service. With the consent of shareholders, he will be replaced by John Kelly, chairman, president and chief executive officer of Alaska Air Group and Alaska Airlines.

The changes are the first since Schwarzkopf joined the Spokane utility's board in 1993. The company said schedule demands dictated the decision by Schwarzkopf, who has accepted positions on several other corporate and nonprofit boards since he retired from the U.S. Army after leading allied forces in the Gulf War.

Taking the board position was an obvious career move for the general at a time when he could partay his public fame into some sort of corporate credential.

One has to believe WWP brought Schwarzkopf onto the board not so much because of his executive insights.

Likely, it was WWP's attempt to add a little glitz to its board.

No buyout? Avista insists its cost-cutting is a ‘voluntary severance program’

Sometime next month, workers at Avista Utilities have a choice to make. The company is looking to help incentivize workers to leave the utility, in order to cut something like $14 million from next year's operating budget.

Our first story on this offer is here.

But let's be a little more precise. The folks at Avista really really don't like us using the term “buyout.”

When we inquired how many employees have indicated an interest, we were told the word buyout is not accurate. It is instead a Voluntary Severance Program.

Further, with the deadline for volunteers being Dec. 14, Avista has no plans to reveal how many workers take the buyout. Even though it's a publicly traded company, the rules don't require this sort of matter to be revealed in SEC documents or filings.

Avista has a total of roughly 1,500 workers. The offer has not been presented to about 600 union workers, said Avista spokesman Dan Kolbet.

Some good news if you rely on gas heating from Avista

The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) on Thursday approved requests by the state’s four investor-owned natural gas companies, including Avista Utilities, to reduce heating rates for customers beginning Nov. 1. 

Natural gas companies in Washington are required to adjust rates periodically to reflect changes in wholesale prices. More than half to about two-thirds of a customer’s monthly bill is attributable to the cost of natural gas on which the company is not allowed to earn a profit.

The remaining 33 to 45 percent of the monthly bill covers the cost of delivering the natural gas. 

Avista’s typical Eastern Washington residential customer using 68 therms will see a drop of 4.3 percent, or $2.58 a month, for a revised bill of $58.18. 

The average residential customer of southwest Washington’s Northwest Natural Gas Co. (NWNG) using 55 therms will see a savings of about 7.7 percent, or $4.82 a month. 

All four utilities may see adjustments to the new rates. UTC staff will review wholesale costs and purchasing and hedging practices of the four firms to insure they are appropriate in current market conditions.   

The commission decision on Avista’s natural gas rate request is separate from the general rate case filed by the company in April. The UTC is expected to make a final decision in that proceeding next March. 

The utilities distribute natural gas to customers but do not produce their own fuel. About half of Washington’s natural gas supplies come from the Canadian provinces of Alberta and British Columbia and the other half from Rocky Mountain production sites such as Wyoming. 

Avista serves more than 149,000 natural gas customers, primarily in Eastern Washington.

Solar incentives and Washington state: a great website for more reading

It was a challenge putting together today's news story, on page A1, about the incentives offered to businesses or homeowners installing solar energy panels. A challenge because there's a good deal of variety and complexity among the federal and state incentives.

One very helpful website for those interested in all those incentives and options is The name stands for Database of State Incentives for Renewables and Efficiency. Good site.

Some numbers that came from the research:

  •    The state of Washington has 3,020 approved solar systems at present, which covers both homes, community projects and businesses. The state's incentives include rebates for amount of solar energy produced per year, plus a waiver on purchases of equipment if the goods are made in this state.
  •    Avista Utilities has signed interconnect contracts with 121 customers in Eastern Washington, and 29 in its Idaho service area.  Of the 121, 98 are residential, 23 are business, according to spokesman Dan Kolbet.

Itron partners with northeast U.S. utility to study advanced smart grid options

On Wednesday, as Itron reported mixed earnings, the Liberty Lake utility technology maker and service provider also announced it's taking part in an East Coast smart grid demonstration project.

Itron and National Grid, a northeast U.S. utitlity, announced they will be partners on a project to build and evaluate advanced smart grid systems in Massachusetts.

Here's where the geeky tech stuff shows up in the story: the two firms will field-test the multi-application capabilities of the new Itron-Cisco IPv6 based smart grid solution, including advanced metering, home area networking (HAN) and distribution automation (DA). That “stuff” is the typical and more or less standard set of tools the smart grid depends on.

OK, then, what's the key news here?  The press report says the system will use Cisco technology that allows a utility to exchange information with its residential and business customers without requiring them to all use just one proprietary set of equipment or applications.

As designed, that makes the smart grid more open-standards based, sort of like the way the Web is designed.

It's a big deal because this allows an electric utility do have a grid system across a diverse set of customers, including large industrial customers, or when dealing with a dispersed group of home customers, some of whom may be using different home metering products than others across the utility map are using.

If you really want all the other details, here's the official Itron release.

Itron and Cisco not long ago announced they had a similar deal for BC Hydro, one of Canada's largest electric utilities. Here's a summary of the project being done in British Columbia.

Downtown Spokane offers a twin bill for its annual meeting next week

Downtown Spokane is offering a double-barrelled program for its annual meeting, which starts at 3:30 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 17.
It will be at the Spokane Convention Center exhibition hall.
Renowned speaker and consultant Roger Brooks, founder and CEO of Destination Development International, will talk about how Spokane can showcase its distinctive urban features, beyond the now-obvious “Near Nature, Near Perfect” marketing approach.
The second topic will cover how Avista Utilities and the City of Spokane have begun collaborating on efforts to build a energy future that includes sustained cost savings, respect for the environment and enhanced quality of life, according to a program note.
To register, go to Registration is $30 in advance before Feb. 10, $35 at the door.

The guilty party: One power pole takes out networks across Spokane Valley, N. Idaho

View Larger Map The company that operates a large network of fiber-optic cable for Spokane and North Idaho business customers said it could be midnight on Tuesday before their Internet service returns.

Shelly Mills, a spokesperson for the Spokane office of Zayo Enterprises, said it might be that long, following a car crash early Tuesday that knocked over a utility pole in northeast Spokane County.

That pole, in the accompanying Google StreetView image, is at the intersection of Starr Road and Wellesley.

It's not clear how many businesses use the fiber that is hung on that pole.

The black lines on the pole are fiber-optic lines. The other mess of wires are for phone and electric power.

The white conduit on the left of the pole brings fiber down into the buried vault on the ground.

Zayo provides both “lit” and dark fiber for customers.

Zayo spokesman Glenn Russo, based in Colorado, said fiber carriers choose to either use poles or bury lines under ground. “You end up picking your poison,” he said. Aerial lines are more frequently broken than buried lines. “But they’re also much easier to fix, by nature of being in the open,” he said.

Another story, to be posted later at, will add information on the specific companies impacted.

Power out on South Hill

Power is out on a portion of the South Hill this afternoon as Avista Utilities crews replace a pole at 9th Ave. and Monroe St. destroyed in a motor vehicle accident at about 10 a.m.

A spokeswoman said service should be restored to all customers by 4:30 p.m.

At 1:30 p.m. the outages had been limited to an area between 8th Ave. and 11th Ave. between Monroe and West Cliff Avenue.

About 222 customers were still without service, down from more than 400 initially.

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Alison Boggs (@alisonboggs) Online Producer Alison Boggs posts and manages content on and its social networking accounts.

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Scott Maben Scott Maben is a Deputy City Editor who covers North Idaho news and higher education.

Addy Hatch is the city editor, and formerly was business editor.

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