In October, Dennis Vermillion, the current president of Avista Corp., will take the helm of the utility as CEO, as current CEO Scott Morris steps down after more than a decade in that role.

Vermillion started at Avista in 1985. Born and raised in the Spokane area, he says he's excited to continue investing in a bright future for his hometown.

Green energy reigns supreme

"Our world is changing, and public policy is changing around how we generate and use electricity. ... Being carbon neutral by 2027, that's exciting, and then 100 percent carbon free by 2045, those are exciting times for us.

"Another area that I think holds tremendous promise that I'm personally excited to be engaged in is electrifying our transportation fleet. Regionally in the Pacific Northwest, if you look at the total carbon emissions from all sources, transportation's about 50 percent, so there's a lot of bang for your buck."

Building solutions

Avista is currently developing the Catalyst building, near the new University District Gateway Bridge, with a goal of opening in early 2020. "We're going to be experimenting how to optimize building operations and building controls not only within that building itself, but also within a cluster of buildings with onsite generation and battery storage, solar and thermal storage.

"If we can do that and then optimize that against grid operations, then you can avoid building new utility infrastructure. For example, a substation you might have to build and serve the traditional way, if you can push that investment off 10 or 20 years by going with these 'non-wire' solutions, that's a win."

Strong and independent

A proposed merger with Canadian utility Hydro One failed this year. Is a more hostile takeover from another utility an inevitability? "No, not at all. You know, Hydro One, there was certainly some benefits to that, that we saw, and it was a very unique opportunity. I prefer to look forward. It's water under the bridge. We're focused on remaining a strong, independent company going forward."

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About The Author

Samantha Wohlfeil

Samantha Wohlfeil covers the environment, rural communities and cultural issues for the Inlander. Since joining the paper in 2017, she's reported how the weeks after getting out of prison can be deadly, how some terminally ill Eastern Washington patients have struggled to access lethal medication, and other sensitive...