Avista’s Scott Morris Shares Seven Insights on Utility Innovation


Scott Morris
Chairman, President and CEO
Avista Utilities

Avista Utilities started life as Washington Water Power Company in 1889. Today, more than 125 years later, the investor-owned utility is one of the most innovative energy providers in the U.S. It serves 680,000 customers across a 30,000 square mile service territory that spans four states.

Scott Morris, Avista’s Chairman, President and CEO, joined the CleanTech Alliance for breakfast at Perkins Coie on Oct. 12 to share his insights on utility innovation. Here are seven takeaways:

  1. Avista is steeped in innovation. The utility built the world’s longest transmission line in 1903, proving how far electricity can travel. It also invented the first electric water heater.


  2. Innovation begets more innovation. Avista has an impressive track record for creating successful companies. Multiple energy industry leaders have spun out of the utility, including Itron, Ecova and ReliOn (now part of Plug Power). According to Morris, it isn’t difficult to create an innovative company. “Simply turn your people lose to solve problems and don’t let utility bureaucracy get in the way.”


  3. It’s no coincidence that the power grid is known as the greatest machine ever build. Innovation is essential for utility survival. According to Morris, “either you innovate or you’re toast.” Utilities have to experiment and learn. It’s part of their DNA, but is no longer as natural as it should be.


  4. Avista and other utilities have moved past innovation and are gaining speed toward revolution thanks to modern technology. Customers demand the security of 24/7 energy access, but also want the bells and whistles provided by the Internet of Things (IoT). It’s Morris’ job to marry the two in a safe, reliable and cost-effective manner.


  5. Avista deployed the largest utility-scale battery project in the U.S. and Europe thanks to the Washington State Clean Energy Fund. The 1 MW / 3.2 MWh battery manufactured by UniEnergy Technologies is deployed in Pullman, Washington.


  6. Speaking of Pullman, Avista launched the nation’s first smart city program in Pullman. Sorry Boulder, Colorado, but the bragging rights belong to Eastern Washington.


  7. Morris doesn’t lose sleep about non-traditional players like Microsoft and Amazon entering the energy space. His thoughts? “We’ll be fine as long as we remain a trusted energy advisor to our customers. There’s room for everybody to innovate.”

Want to learn more? Check out the #CleanTechBacon Twitter conversation. A video of the breakfast presentation is also embedded below.

The CleanTech Alliance Breakfast Series is your opportunity to rub elbows with distinguished cleantech executives from across Washington State, the Northwest and beyond. Presented by Perkins Coie, join 100 cleantech industry leaders for a monthly conversation featuring a tremendous lineup of distinguished speakers. Check out our full lineup of executive speakers!