Avista Corp. began as the Washington Water Power Co., generating its power from the Spokane Falls. The company, the primary energy provider in Eastern Washington, plans to return to those green roots, and said this week it would produce 100% clean electricity by 2045.
Avista President Dennis Vermillion said in a statement the clean electricity goal was “an important step forward in caring for our environment while continuing to meet the energy needs of our customers and communities today and well into the future.”
Unmentioned by Vermillion is a state Senate bill requiring the switch to clean energy – fuel not produced by fossil fuels – that would phase out the use of natural gas and coal by electric utilities in Washington by 2045. The measure includes fines for utilities that fail to comply.
The bill has passed both chambers of the Legislature and is headed to the desk of Gov. Jay Inslee, a candidate for president with a campaign focused almost exclusively on fighting climate change.
Still, as Avista notes, it has a long history of “environmental stewardship.”
Forty years ago, Avista established an energy efficiency program that has reduced customer electric usage by 15%. In 2016, the company embarked on a two-year pilot program to expand the use of electric vehicles in Eastern Washington, with plans to install 265 charging stations in homes, workplaces and public locations. In the past three years, the company has created the Community Solar project in Spokane Valley, the Solar Select project in Lind, and the Rattlesnake Flat Wind project in Adams County.
But the company has a way to go to reach its 100% clean energy goal, let alone the more modest goal of having a carbon-neutral supply of electricity by the end of 2027.
The company’s energy comes primarily from water power, with nearly 48 percent of its energy mix coming from dams. Six percent of Avista’s power comes from wind. Nine percent comes from coal, the biggest contributor of CO2 emissions for electric facilities. Another 35 percent comes from natural gas, which also produces CO2 but not near the levels coal does.
“Since Avista’s founding on clean, renewable hydro power in 1889, we’ve served our customers with an electric generation resource mix that is more than half renewable, allowing us to keep our carbon emissions among the lowest in the nation,” Vermillion said, before turning his comments to the future.
“Avista has created companies like Itron, Ecova and Relion that play a role in supporting clean energy and the efficient use of electricity,” he said. “We serve as a founding partner of Urbanova, Spokane’s Smart City living laboratory that is testing smart city concepts and we’re creating an Ecodistrict in Spokane that will allow the company to not only shape how the grid of the future will operate but also define how buildings can be developed to operate and utilize energy in the most efficient manner.”
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