We all love it when we flip the switch and the light turns on but how does that happen? Is it magic? Is it luck? There is a lot involved in how the power gets from the dam to your light switch. Let’s lift the curtain on power generation and see what happens behind the scenes.
To bring our customers electricity, we generate power from 8 hydroelectric projects and 7 thermal generation plants, and receive power from 58 wind turbines. Then we send it over 19,000 miles of distribution lines across 30,000 square miles to more than 375,000 customers.
This is a massive infrastructure of poles, dams, turbines and substations to maintain and improve every year to make sure you have reliable, quality power. This maintenance and improvement is a major part of your energy prices.
One way we balance the need to do this work with the costs to our customers is through ongoing, systematic maintenance and upgrades. This means many of our projects are spread over several years, so that these costs won’t impact your prices all at once. One example is our wood pole management program, which is on a 20-year cycle, with inspection, maintenance and replacements happening every year.
We have about 240,000 distribution poles across our system. The average age of a wood pole is nearly 32 years, but about 56,000 are over 50 years old. To stay on schedule, we have to look at 12,000 poles each year.
Changes in costs for equipment and upgrades are another major reason for price increase requests. For example, a power pole installed in 1960 may have cost $60.16. A new pole in 2015 would have been $678.21. What’s in your current prices is the price of the power pole when it was installed, which may have been many years ago and costs more today.
As we improve and maintain the system to provide you with reliable energy, Avista strives to keep your energy costs low.