Avista under fire on social media


From staff reports

Some Avista Utilities customers have brought up concerns over social media of unusually high electricity and gas bills.

“My bill was $130 for two people and we’ve been freezing trying not to use our heat,” Allison Stamper wrote in a Facebook post on the WSU Free & for Sale page. Avista provides power to the Idaho and eastern Washington region, including Pullman.

Stamper is one of many customers in the region who noticed a spike in utility cost. Recently, others have taken to the internet to address their concerns.

“Ours nearly doubled,” said Rhiannon Slack, on a Facebook post regarding the high prices.

“Ours jumped by about $30,” said Camille Soutiere, another poster.

Some have gone as far as to post pictures their bills, after Spokane news station KHQ made a Facebook post inquiring about the unusual costs. The post garnered comments accusing the company of fraud and scams, while others seemed skeptical that anybody was falling victim to a preying corporation.

Senior Communications Manager for Avista Debbie Simoch said part of the blame lies with heavy winds experienced in the region in November. Storms brought on record amounts of outages and many homes were inaccessible to Avista’s meter-checkers.

Blocked roads and downed power lines mean estimations had to be made for some customers, said Simoch. On your bill, she said, there is a small indicator that will let you know whether your bill had been estimated or is an actual amount.

When estimation is necessary, Simoch said an algorithm is used to calculate bills using customers’ usage history as well as weather factors.

If your bill was not estimated, chances are a higher bill is due to the weather, said Simoch.

“Typically in the Pacific Northwest we are a winter-peaking utility,” said Simoch, “As we start moving into spring, bills will decrease.”

Sustained cold and poor insulation are both factors in energy use and Simoch added that billing periods sometimes vary. The few days tacked on to the next cycle might give the illusion of a higher bill, she said.

Avista.com has a feature called bill analyzer, where cost, usage and fluctuations can be seen in an easy-to-read report.

Some ways to reduce energy usage include turning off heaters when your home is empty, unplugging appliances that are not being used and insulating any thin windows or other drafty areas using drapes.

Reporting by Shane Michard