Avista has been chosen to receive a matching grant in the range of $20 million from the U.S. Department of Energy for a project to upgrade portions of the utility's electric distribution system to smart grid standards. Avista will contribute approximately $22 million to the project cost.

Depending on final grant terms, the project is expected to improve electric service for customers and create some 45 new green jobs.

The upgrade will dramatically improve 58 electric distribution facilities known as "feeders" in the Spokane area. The project is intended to reduce energy losses from electric lines, improve reliability and increase efficiency in the feeder system. The result of this work will include in a reduction in the need for new energy sources and will cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Avista is already at work on a pilot project that provided the basis for this grant. Funding from the federal stimulus program makes it possible to upgrade more feeders in a faster timeframe with little impact on rates.

Specifically, the project will include installation of modern equipment and software to enable Smart Grid capabilities and increase reliability and efficiency.

The distribution feeder systems to be upgraded are primarily in higher population density areas of south and north Spokane. Work is expected to begin by the end of 2009. The entire project is scheduled for completion in 36 months.