Washington Business Winter 2018 | Washington Business - Page 21

washington business is that as we’ve seen all the smoke from wildfires, those engineers are seeing in real time what the air quality is in those areas and tracking the data. The next step from that, since we have two medical schools, is we would then have this research and could see the types of medical issues that might be coming into the new clinic in the University District, such as more occurrences of asthma or other types of health issues due to certain air quality levels and prepare for the kinds of patients that may come into the clinic and hospitals. This experiment is not happening yet, but that’s information that, over time, you could use. It’s not the utility’s job to do that research, but our role in this project is creating the networks, collaboration and opportunities for these partners to come together to create a living laboratory to get solid information to improve communities. As data from the pilot project is gathered, how will it be shared and who will have access to it? The big part of this is governance and we’re learning about that right now. We’re asking, as we think of various different organizations that may want the data, how do we set this up in a way that protects privacy and respects confidentiality? That’s critical, because, on the other hand, you gathered this data to put to use to make your community better. A big piece of that is working through the governance principles, how to set up these networks so that, from a cyber perspective, they’re safe. This is all part of the experiment itself. It’s truly a living laboratory. Avista made big news with the announcement of its acquisition by Hydro One last year. Why was this move important for the company? We at Avista, and I, have a deep appreciation for the fact that Avista — then Washington Water Power Company — was started when Washington state was still a territory. It’s one of the very few corporations that is still in existence where this is the case. It has been an important part of the Inland Northwest for 128 years. Our goal was we wanted to make sure that we would continue to play that role for another 128 years. What’s happening in the industry is there has been a considerable amount of consolidation. When I became the president in 2000, there were 68 investor- owned, publicly-traded utilities in the United States. Today, there are 42. If you count Canada, there are a total of 50 investor-owned utilities, in all of North America. Avista is one of the smallest investor-owned utilities in North America — 46 out of 50 in size. We have a large service territory — 35,000 miles — but we don’t have as many customers because we don’t have the population base. So, we started to think about how we could do something proactive instead of just watching this industry consolidation. And, if so, what was most important to us? So, we went back to our guiding principles, or our “four legs of the stool,” with regard to commitments we absolutely must keep to: our customers, our employees, our communities as well as our shareholders. In any decision, we wanted to make sure we kept the values and culture of our company and retain what Avista does for our communities and our customers as well as create value for our shareholders. We could have waited and hoped that a deal came about that ensured we could keep our commitments to our communities and stakeholders. But, we came to the conclusion that if we could find the right partner with the right values and the right culture, and they respected our values and the need for us to bring to the table our guiding principles and have a say in the partnership, it might be worth a conversation. Hydro One was that company. scott morris at a glance Scott Morris, is a 36-year employee of Avista. He was named president of Avista Utilities in 2000 and was elected as the Avista Corp. board chairman, president and CEO on Jan. 1, 2006. Morris, 59, received both his undergraduate degree and master’s degree from Gonzaga University in Spokane. He also attended the Stanford Business School of Financial Management Program and the Kidder Peabody School of Financial Management. Spokane-based Avista Corp., formerly Washington Water Power Company, was started in 1889, when Washington state was still a territory. In July, Avista Corp. announced a proposed acquisition by Canada’s Hydro One. If approved by regulators, it would make the company a top 20 North American utility focused on the production, transmission and distribution of electricity and natural gas. Pending regulatory approval, Avista anticipates the acquisition will be complete in the second half of 2018. Urbanova is a strategic partnership between Avista Corp., the City of Spokane, Itron, McKinstry, the University District Development Association and Washington State University. Together, they are piloting smart cities technology and innovations that aim to make healthier, more energy efficient and smarter-planned communities in the future. winter 2018 21