Washington Business Winter 2018 | Washington Business - Page 22

washington business How has the Hydro One partnership ensured Avista’s continued commitment to its employees and the communities it serves? The things we absolutely had to have in any deal were: We wanted to make sure that corporate headquarters remained in Spokane because we know that is absolutely critical to our community. We needed to make sure we didn’t lose one job. The jobs that we have here in Spokane are precious, and we have some of the best and brightest people that work at our company. They give a tremendous amount of their time and talent back to the community as well as working at the utility. And, we wanted to make sure that we continued to focus on economic development and innovations, like Urbanova. We had to find a partner that valued all these things and, in fact, wanted to strengthen and encourage them. We wanted to find a partner that understood how important our donations and our community involvement are and would not only want to support that, but as the only corporation east of the Cascades that’s on the list of top 25 most philanthropic companies in Washington state, grow that presence. Not only did Hydro One say these things are important to them, but they almost doubled the amount of donations we give to the community. Finally, we wanted to create a governance model that kept our independence. Hydro One was willing to set up a separate, independent board of directors from Hydro One that will oversee our company, which is made up primarily of people from the Pacific Northwest. By being proactive and being able to keep our values the way we want them, this partnership will help Avista keep its culture for another 128 years. “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.” 22 association of washington business Avista has been an innovator in environmental stewardship through initiatives like the vanadium flow battery storage project to effectively store solar and wind energy and its recent Urbanova efforts. Why is sustainability so important to your company? A big piece of who we are is our environmental stewardship. We’re one of the first utilities in the United States that hired a biologist to oversee our water quality and fish restoration and what our hydro operations mean to those important issues. And, that was back in the 1950s. That history has stayed with us. Not only do we stay committed to environmental stewardship in how we have relicensed our hydro facilities on the Spokane River, we take great care to protect fish, wildlife, air quality and all our natural resources, including habitat restoration. We’ve spent tens of millions of dollars making sure we’re a great corporate citizen and being good stewards of our environment in our service territory. We also have one of the greenest energy portfolios of any utility in North America. We have hydro, but we also have wind and we were the first commercial utility to have a biomass plant, in Kettle Falls. No other utility had used wood waste for electric generation on a utility scale — we were the first to do that in the ‘80s. In fact, in our next integrated resource plan, we’re actually reducing our carbon footprint over the next 20 years. Our portfolio is extremely green and it’s very intentional on our part to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions. That’s who we are and that’s our legacy. What is Avista’s philosophy on the changing nature of the energy grid as it blends more with technology? With a lot of distributive energy, whether it’s solar or battery storage of renewables, the evolution of this effort is going to continue in the industry. And, what we’ve learned with the technological change that has happened over time is that the companies that survive and thrive are the ones that lean in to change. What we’ve embraced, whether it’s through Urbanova, battery storage and all-of-the-above, is that if we learn, partner, pilot and practice, it will help us be relevant and strong for the next century. So, while change can sometimes be uncomfortable, it also brings a lot of opportunities. We know our electric grid is going to be here for a long time, but we also know that if there is going to be new technology coming, the real winners are going to be the ones asking, “how do we integrate this technology and this wonderful grid to create value for the customer and the company?” And, we can’t be afraid to fail. We have some of the most remarkable people working for us. All these great ideas and innovations came from our team, our incredible people with incredible ideas, and they’re making all this happen. And, it’s a joy to be able to work with them.