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Avista reports higher 2014 earnings

Last year was a busy one for Avista Corp.

The Spokane-based utility celebrated its 125th anniversary, bought an electric utility in Alaska and sold off a subsidiary.

Those transactions are reflected in the company’s 2014 earnings, which shot up 73 percent, the company reported today.

Avista reported income of $192 million, or $3.10 per share, for last year, compared to 2013 earnings of $111.1 million, or $1.85 per share.

The company’s 2014 income included a one-time gain of nearly $70 million from the sale of Ecova, an energy management subsidiary. Avista also saw a small bump in income from the purchase of Alaska Electric Light and Power, which serves the Juneau area.

High demand for electricity and natural gas during the first nine months of last year, along with lower energy costs and interest rates, also helped the company’s balance sheet, Avista officials said.

However, warmer weather during October, November and December reduced demand for power during the fourth quarter, which led to lower-than-expected quarterly earnings, officials said.

For the fourth quarter, Avista reported earnings of $32.2 million, or 51 cents per share, compared to 2013 fourth quarter earnings of $31.7 million, or 53 cents per share.

Weather continues to play a role in the company’s financial outlook

Mild temperatures in January and February led to a loss of low-elevation snowpack, said Dennis Vermillion, Avista’s vice president. But, so far, the outlook for hydropower generation still looks good for the Clark Fork River, he told analysts during a conference call.

Avista’s two largest dams are on the Clark Fork River, where flow forecasts are 101 percent of average for April through September. Cool spring nights should help preserve high-elevation snow in the watershed, Vermillion said. The Clark Fork generates about 75 percent of Avista’s hydropower.

For the Spokane River, where Avista also operates dams, the flow forecasts are 75 percent of average for April through September, Vermillion said.