Comment sought on Avista plan

N. Idaho customers have until Dec. 16 to comment on natural gas proposal

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Avista Utilities' North Idaho customers have until Dec. 16 to submit comments regarding Avista's long-range plan to meet customer demand for natural gas over the next 20 years.

The company's Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) is updated every two years.

Customer demand remains low, thus Avista does not anticipate a need to acquire additional resources beyond what it already provides, according to a press release from the Idaho Public Utilities Commission.

"Demand is down due partly to the recession, while the availability of natural gas increases because of the abundant supply of shale gas," the press release stated.

Avista anticipates an annual growth in customer demand of only 0.7 percent annually.

However, there are enough uncertainties regarding future natural gas supply and price that the company's plan outlines a number of scenarios and how it would respond to each one.

The uncertainties that could affect demand for natural gas include:

* The amount of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.

* The market for natural gas vehicles.

* The amount of increased natural gas that may be needed for electric generation.

Existing and new LNG facilities are looking to export low-cost North American gas to higher-priced Asian and European markets, the Avista IRP stated.

In Canada, 16 LNG export projects are in various stages of permit acquisition and there are two proposed terminals in Oregon.

"LNG exporting has the potential to alter the price, constrain existing pipeline networks, stimulate development of new pipeline resources and change flows of natural gas across North America," the IRP states.

Avista claims it has a diversified portfolio of gas supply resources, including contracts to buy gas from several supply basins, stored gas and firm capacity rights on six pipelines.

The company has identified a number of steps it will take in its "action plan" to address future concerns, including:

* Monitoring demand for indications of deviations from expected growth and providing a report twice yearly to commission staff on forecasted customer growth and use per customer as compared to actual growth.

* Monitoring supply-side resource trends including the availability and price of natural gas to the region, LNG exports, Canadian natural gas supply and consumption and the availability of storage infrastructure.

* Meeting regularly with commission staff to provide information on market activities and significant changes in the IRP's assumptions or natural gas procurement practices.

Comments are accepted via email through Dec. 16 by accessing and clicking on "Case Comment Form" under the "Consumers" heading. Fill in the case number (AVU-G-14-03) and enter your comments.

Comments can also be mailed to P.O. Box 83720, Boise, ID 83720-0074 or faxed to (208) 334-3762.

Copies of Avista's IRP, along with commission orders and other documents related to this case, are available on IPUC's website. Click on "Open Cases" under the "Gas" heading and scroll to the listed case number.

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