Avista Offers Bill Assistance Tools for Customers

Winter has landed in the northwest and with it comes cold temperatures. The bitter temperatures alone can cause rising energy use and costs, but combined with the holiday season bringing visiting friends and family, more showers, cooking and other energy using activities, customers can expect to see higher utility bills in December and January. Knowing this, Avista wants to remind customers of the bill assistance tools available to help them.

“The most important step customers can take is to contact Avista as soon as they have a concern about paying their energy bill. That way, we can work together on options to help them through the challenging time,” said Mike Broemeling, Avista’s director of customer service.

Avista offers customers a variety of payment options, including:

·         Comfort-level billing that can smooth out seasonal highs and lows by dividing an energy bill into 12 equal and predictable payments for qualifying customers.

·         Online statement and payments so customers can conveniently make payments electronically.

·         Energy assistance programs that may provide help to customers in need.

Energy assistance and Project Share grants can help qualifying customers, along with Avista’s CARES program and our partnership with local community action agencies for weatherization, heating system improvements and financial assistance.

Customers can monitor their energy use through online energy management tools, such as the Bill Analyzer or Home Energy Advisor. Avista also offers a number of energy efficiency programs and rebates to help customers save energy and operate their homes and businesses more efficiently.

For more information on all of Avista’s bill assistance tools and energy assistance options including eligibility and guidelines, visit or call (800) 227-9187.


NWGA Gets a Mention in the Medford Mail Tribune

NWGA Executive Director, Dan Kirschner, was on the road in Medford, OR yesterday talking natural gas at the Medford/Jackson County Chamber of Commerce.  Dan, along with Steve Harper, Director of Gas Supply for Avista, spoke on what Southern Oregon consumers have gained from the expansion in gas supply due to shale.

Dan and Steve’s comments were highlighted in an article today in the Medford Mail Tribune; here’s a quick quote from Dan, you can read the whole article at the link below.

 “When I started this job 12 years ago, natural gas was a scarce resource,” Kirschner said. “We didn’t know how we were going to find the resources we needed to meet the needs we knew we were going to have. Suddenly we started hearing this term ‘shale gas’ and we had a revolution. We’ve moved from scarcity to today abundance.”

To read the entire article at the Mail Tribune website, click here.

Natural Gas Term of the Week: Underground Storage Facility

What it means: A subsurface geologic formation suitable for the storage of natural gas as a means of providing extra capacity in times of very high customer demand, insuring against service disruptions and allowing for increased gas purchases in times of low prices.

See it in action: A number of Northwest utilities rely on storage facilities to help manage loads and insure against any system disruptions, especially on cold days when demand spikes. NW Natural operates the Mist Underground Gas Storage field, a depleted natural gas field located in Mist, Oregon. Puget Sound Energy, Williams NW Pipeline, and Avista Corp. jointly own and operate the Jackson Prairie Storage Facility, an aquifer reservoir, near Chehalis, Washington. In other areas of the country utilities may rely on salt caverns for storage.

For a more in depth overview of storage facilities nationwide, have a look at the EIA’s “Basics of Underground Natural Gas Storage.”

Natural Gas Terms of the Week are posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.

Follow the NWGA on Twitter: @Ben_at_NWGA

Natural Gas Term of the Week: Degree Day

 What it means: An index indicating the difference between 65 degrees Fahrenheit and the average temperature for a day.

See it in action: How does an NWGA member company with a large operating territory, like Avista, compare the different heating and cooling requirements in Medford and Spokane? One of the key means of comparison are degree-days; I’ll leave it to NOAA to describe how they are calculated:

“To calculate the heating degree days for a particular day, find the day’s average temperature by adding the day’s high and low temperatures and dividing by two. If the number is above 65, there are no heating degree-days that day. If the number is less than 65, subtract it from 65 to find the number of heating degree-days.

For example, if the day’s high temperature is 60 and the low is 40, the average temperature is 50 degrees. 65 minus 50 is 15 heating degree days.

Cooling degree-days are also based on the day’s average minus 65. They relate the day’s temperature to the energy demands of air conditioning. For example, if the day’s high is 90 and the day’s low is 70, the day’s average is 80. 80 minus 65 is 15 cooling degree days.”

While utilities use all manner of sophisticated analytical tools to help plan their energy needs for each year, degree-days provide a great overview of weather variability. As a winter peaking region for natural gas use, most of the Northwest will see many more heating degree-days each year than cooling degree-days.

However, there’s still plenty of variability in our region. In Avista’s two large natural gas service areas, Spokane sees an average of 6842 heating degree-days and 398 cooling degrees days while Medford averages 4611 heating degree-days and 725 cooling degree-days. It’s not hard to see who gets the rougher winters.

Natural Gas Terms of the Week are posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.

Follow the NWGA on Twitter: @Ben_at_NWGA

Natural Gas Term of the Week: Combination Utility

 What it means: Utility which supplies more than one utility service, such as gas and electricity.

See it in action: Three of the NWGA’s 10 members are combination utilities, serving both natural gas and electric customers; Avista Utilities, based in Spokane, Washington, Puget Sound Energy, based in Bellevue, Washington and FortisBC, based in Vancouver BC.

Combination utilities don’t always provide both of their services to customers in the same area, or even in the same states.  Puget Sound Energy’s service area encompasses a large portion of Northwestern Washington with significant portions devoted to both gas and electric service and other areas providing only one or the other.  Avista provides both gas and electric service to much of Eastern Washington and Western Idaho but also supplies natural gas to a large section of Southern Oregon and portions of the Columbia Gorge. FortisBC provides gas service to the Vancouver metro area and portion of inland BC while their power operations are focused along the Canada-U.S. border in the central portion of the province.

Natural Gas Terms of the Week are posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.

Follow the NWGA on Twitter: @Ben_at_NWGA

Avista Makes Price Reduction Requests in Oregon

SPOKANE, WA – NWGA Member Avista Utilities’ 96,000 natural gas customers in Oregon could see an overall decrease of 10.7 percent in their natural gas rates by Jan. 1, 2013, if the Public Utility Commission of Oregon (PUC or Commission) approves the company’s annual Purchased Gas Cost Adjustment (PGA) and related filings made today.

PGAs are filed each year to balance the actual cost of wholesale natural gas purchased by Avista to serve customers with the amount included in rates. Abundant supplies of natural gas and continued soft demand for the commodity have continued to keep wholesale natural gas prices at lower levels over the past year. The company does not mark up the cost of natural gas purchased to meet customer needs, so there is no impact on company earnings.

“Each year, we propose to adjust the rates our customers pay so that customers’ bills better reflect our actual costs of purchasing natural gas,” said Dennis Vermillion, president of Avista Utilities. “Today’s requested rate reductions are largely due to lower natural gas prices, which is good news for our customers.”

“Our customers in Oregon have been seeing the benefits of increased natural gas supply and lower prices for some time. If this request is approved, including other rate adjustments proposed by Avista and approved by the Commission, our customers will have seen their rates decrease to near 2004 levels,” Vermillion said.

Included in the filing are the costs and savings related to Avista’s purchase of the Klamath Falls Lateral, a 15-mile, 6-inch transmission pipeline, currently owned and operated by Northwest Pipeline. The Klamath Falls Lateral interconnects with Gas Transmission Northwest to transport natural gas to serve Avista’s customers in Klamath Falls, Ore. The purchase of the lateral is expected to save customers approximately $1 million annually beginning in January 2013.

Avista also made two administrative filings today with the OPUC related to demand side management and intervener funding.

If all requests including the PGA are approved, rate adjustments would take place in two phases, with the first adjustment becoming effective Nov. 1, 2012, and the second adjustment taking effect Jan. 1, 2013.

An Avista residential customer using an average 47 therms a month could expect their bill to decrease by $5.78, or 9.3%, for a revised monthly bill of $56.22 beginning November 1, 2012. A residential customer using an average 47 therms a month would see an additional decrease of $0.50, beginning Jan. 1, 2013, for a total decrease of $6.28, or an overall decrease of 10.1%, for a revised monthly bill of $55.72. Other customer groups could also expect decreases in a similar range.

If all of the requests are approved, Avista’s natural gas revenues would decrease by $10.0 million, or 9.9% effective November 1, 2012, with an additional annual revenue decrease of $0.8 million, or 0.8% effective January 1, 2013. When combined together, effective January 1, 2013, Oregon annual revenues would decrease by $10.8 million or 10.7%.

The combined costs of purchasing natural gas on the wholesale market and transporting it to Avista’s system makes up about 55 percent of an Avista natural gas customer’s bill, and these costs fluctuate up and down based on market prices. These costs are passed through to customers through Avista’s PGA filings, and Avista does not mark these costs up. The remaining 45 percent covers the cost of delivering the natural gas — the equipment and people needed to provide safe and reliable service.

To help customers proactively manage their energy use, Avista offers a number of energy efficiency programs, including rebates and incentives. for information on the programs that helped Avista’s Oregon customers save enough energy in the past two years to serve almost 1,100 homes with natural gas.

Natural Gas Term of the Week: Dig-In

Natural Gas Term of the Week: When buried gas facilities (or other underground utilities) are damaged by excavation.

What it means: Gas transmission and distribution pipes are typically found below ground, this keeps them safe from disturbances related to weather but it’s an issue when someone starts digging without knowing what’s below their feet.

To be informed about the location of utilities before digging it’s important to always Call 811 before you dig.  There’s no charge to have a professional come out and mark the underground utilities where you plan to dig.

What happens if a dig in does occur? Your local gas utility is prepared and works with emergency services to ensure a coordinated response if necessary.  NWGA member companies put plenty of effort into spreading the dig safely message, check out this recent commercial released by Avista Utilities:

A Natural Gas Term of the Week is posted each Monday, check back weekly to boost your natural gas IQ.  Follow the NWGA on Twitter @Ben_at_NWGA

What Powers a Natural Gas Utility? Avista’s New Commercial Has an Interesting Answer…

While it might be natural gas that’s cooking your food, heating your water and warming up your home, there’s something else that powers a natural gas utility… Avista Utilities began airing new commercials this week highlighting that special fuel, any guesses? It’s people!

Don’t think Soylent Green, think of the hundreds (or thousands) of employees required to make a utility work. Avista and other gas and power utilities are large and complex companies, but unlike certain other utility providers (think cable and phone companies) they are often headquartered right where they operate. Meaning those people on the other side of your gas meter, whether they’re ensuring pipeline safety, answering customer calls or planning the next system expansion, are your neighbors as well.

Have a look at the new commercial below: