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The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Sale boosts Avista gains

Energy management subsidiary Ecova fetched $68 million for quarter

Avista Corp.’s sale of its energy management subsidiary helped push the utility’s second-quarter earnings past the $100 million mark, officials said Wednesday.

Avista reported earnings of $100.9 million, or $1.67 per share, for the quarter. For the same period last year, the Spokane-based utility reported earnings of $25.7 million, or 43 cents per share. Revenues for the second quarter were nearly $313 million.

The sale of the Ecova subsidiary in June resulted in a net gain of $68 million for the company during the quarter, said Scott Morris, Avista’s chairman and chief executive officer.

Avista’s earnings also benefited from a $15 million legal settlement with California utilities resolving claims from the 2001 West Coast energy crisis.

In addition, strong hydropower generation and lower operating costs led to higher-than-expected utility earnings during the quarter, Morris said. Those gains came despite mild weather that reduced energy use.

Last year’s rate increases for electric and natural gas customers in Washington, Idaho and Oregon also helped the company’s balance sheet during the quarter, Morris said.

Avista increased its 2014 earnings guidance to $3 to $3.20 per share on Wednesday, citing the lower operating costs and the sale of Ecova.

The company’s robust financial performance recently led to calls for lower base rates for Washington electric customers.

Staff from the state Utilities and Transportation Commission and the Attorney General’s office each recommended small electric rate decreases, starting Jan. 1.

Both entities cited changing business conditions, including Avista’s ability to borrow money at more favorable interest rates for capital projects. They also support smaller profits for Avista’s shareholders.

The matter is pending before the three-member Utilities and Transportation Commission, which is expected to release a decision in December.