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Business Spotlight: Avista

Paul Kimmell, Regional Business Manager for Avista Corporation, Idaho’s second-largest utility, presented to the Idaho Energy Freedom Advisory Council in September.  

He shared several key takeaways that shed light on the complex landscape of clean energy, renewables, and utility operations.

Avista seeks to educate various stakeholders about their power generation mix and the complexities of energy resource planning. Through “Powering Our Future,” Avista employees engage policymakers, business leaders, and community members in discussions about different generation resources’ attributes, characteristics, costs, and environmental impacts. Participants are given the opportunity to design their own energy portfolio, get behind the scenes, and use analytics help calculate the outcomes. This exercise serves as an effective tool for communicating the intricacies of energy resource planning to the public, Kimmell said. 

Avista serves customers in Washington and Idaho, which have very different regulatory environments. Washington sets statewide renewable energy goals and requirements, while in Idaho, the energy landscape focuses on affordability more than renewable targets. These regional variations challenge utilities like Avista to navigate and provide tailored solutions to meet the diverse customer needs.

Kimmell also discussed Avista’s efforts to invest in renewable natural gas (RNG) projects, converting methane waste from sources like landfills and dairy farms into usable natural gas. This sustainable approach can help reduce emissions and address community challenges simultaneously. However, the development of RNG technologies presents some challenges, including bridging the gap between technology and affordability, particularly in the context of electric transportation. Kimmell said Avista seeks to create an electric vehicle charging infrastructure for all their customers, and noted the disparities in regulations between Washington and Idaho that affect such initiatives.

Finally, Kimmell emphasized the utility’s focus on energy equity, recognizing the struggles of economically disadvantaged customers who face energy burdens. Avista’s goal is to provide affordable, reliable, and clean energy while addressing communities’ specific needs.

Kimmell’s presentation revealed the intricate balancing act that investor-owned utilities like his face when dealing with clean energy transitions, renewable technologies, and diverse regional regulations. As the broader energy industry pushes towards sustainability, affordability, all energy options will be needed to ensure our state is resilient in the face of evolving energy challenges.

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