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Avista’s profits up 42 percent

THURSDAY, FEB. 27, 2014

Avista Corp.’s profits shot up 42 percent in 2013, following higher demand for heat and air-conditioning during a year that featured a colder-than-normal winter and a hot summer.

The Spokane-based utility reported net income of $111.1 million for 2013, compared with income of $78.2 million in 2012.

Rate increases for utility customers that took effect last year also helped Avista’s bottom line, company officials said.

Avista is back on track following lower profits in 2012, when the utility didn’t meet earnings expectations, according to Jessie Wuerst, company spokeswoman. Mild weather and costs associated with a buyout plan to trim Avista’s workforce dampened the utility’s earnings in 2012, she said.

Earnings at Ecova, an Avista subsidiary that provides energy audits and management services, also rebounded in 2013, contributing to Avista’s higher earnings. Ecova’s revenues were up 14 percent last year, following lower-than-expected revenue the prior year.

In addition, both Avista and its customers benefited from a $12 million settlement last year with the Bonneville Power Administration over use of the company’s transmission lines, Wuerst said. About 60 percent of the settlement went to customers in the form of rebates on their utility bills, Wuerst said.

Despite the increase in income, Avista will continue to ask for rate increases, said Scott Morris, Avista’s chairman and CEO, in a statement. The utility needs to keep investing in new facilities and equipment upgrades to serve its customers, he said.

Avista recently asked Washington regulators to approve higher electric and natural gas rates, effective Jan. 1, 2015. The utility will file a similar rate request in Idaho later this spring, Morris said.

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