Avista requests suspension of natural gas energy efficiency programs due to low wholesale prices

Natural gas remains most efficient, economical fuel choice for home and business

Avista has filed requests with the utility commissions in Washington and Idaho to suspend the company’s natural gas energy efficiency programs. The requests were prompted by continuing low wholesale natural gas prices and abundant supplies which have affected the cost effectiveness of Avista’s natural gas energy efficiency rebate and incentive programs. If approved by the commissions, the programs will be suspended beginning Sept. 1, 2012. Avista’s energy efficiency rebate and incentive programs for electric customers are not affected by the requests.

“The wholesale price of natural gas has been declining in recent years. While this is very good news for customers who use natural gas in their homes and businesses, these lower costs have added challenges to offering a comprehensive natural gas energy efficiency program,” said Jason Thackston, Avista’s vice president of customer solutions. “The low prices mean that it now costs more to provide natural gas energy efficiency rebates and incentives than it costs for the natural gas that customers use. That impacts Avista’s ability to offer rebates for natural gas efficiency improvements.”

Thackston said the costs are continually analyzed, and if appropriate, the programs could be re-introduced in the future.

If the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission and the Idaho Public Utilities Commission approve Avista’s requests to suspend the programs, residential and commercial customers could submit rebates until Nov. 1, 2012, for installing a high efficiency natural gas furnace/boiler or water heater and installing insulation measures for attics, walls and floors in homes heated with natural gas. Residential rebates for installing natural gas space and water heat in an Energy Star Home would also sunset on Nov. 1. The effective date for suspending customized energy efficiency programs for commercial and industrial customers would be Sept. 1, 2012. Programs for limited-income natural gas weatherization improvements will expire on Dec. 31, 2012.

“Although our natural gas energy efficiency programs would be suspended if approved by the commissions, natural gas remains the best, most cost-effective source for heating our homes and businesses and for heating water,” Thackston said.

Customers taking advantage of the natural gas energy efficiency programs have saved over 6 million therms in the past three years. That’s enough natural gas to serve over 7,400 homes for a year. Current natural gas rates for Avista’s Washington customers are at levels similar to those in 2003 with Idaho rates below those in 2004.

Electric energy efficiency rebates and incentives available for electric residential, commercial, industrial and low-income customers are not impacted by the request. For information on those programs and other energy-saving information, visit www.avistautilities.com.

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