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Avista earns $8.1 million for quarter

Figures represent 9 percent increase in Q3

Avista Corp. Wednesday reported improved third-quarter earnings despite sharply lower revenues.

The Spokane company earned $8.1 million, or 15 cents per share, based on operating revenues of $314.7 million. During the 2008 third quarter, the company earned $7.4 million, or 13 cents per share, based on revenues of $382.7 million.

Utility operations yielded income of $7.2 million, compared with $6.5 million in 2008, while Advantage IQ, Avista’s energy management and billing subsidiary, contributed $1.4 million, up from $1.3 million during the 2008 quarter.

Avista Chairman Scott Morris attributed the utility’s improved results to electricity rate increases implemented in Washington Jan. 1, and in Idaho Oct. 1, 2008, and Aug. 1, 2009.

Natural gas rates, on the other hand, have fallen 30 percent in Idaho, 28 percent in Washington and 12 percent in Oregon as the company passed lower wholesale gas costs through to customers.

Another proposed electricity rate increase in Washington is pending. Avista Senior Vice President Mark Thies told analysts Avista will file more rate increases next year.

For 2009, Avista also benefited from lowered interest costs, and income tax payments.

Chairman Scott Morris said the company expects earnings for all of 2009 to fall at the higher end of a range from $1.45 to $1.61 per share. In 2010, projected results fall somewhere between $1.55 and $1.75 per share, he said.

Morris also said Avista may speed up development, or increase in size, a proposed $125 million wind-power project near Reardan, depending on the cost of the windmills, and alternative sources of renewable energy.

High costs sidetracked the project last year.