The earnings outlook for Avista Corp remains positive for the full year due partly to the current snowpack conditions to help hydropower, the US energy utility said when reporting higher first quarter earnings.

The company reported its net income for Q1 had increased 79% to US$25.2M in the quarter as both the energy and utilities activities delivered improved results. The utilities division benefited from an approved rate increase in Washington state but the overall earnings performance was below that planned.

The rate rise was needed as hydropower output has been down for some time and more reliance put on fuel and purchased energy. In the quarter, hydropower output continued to be down due to cold weather causing lower runoff from the snowpack.

Operating income in Q1 lifted by half to just over US$59M on revenues higher by 8% to US$496.3M.

The outlook for the full year is also helped by the plan to issue new debt to replace maturing debt, the company said.

Last year, in the third quarter, credit ratings agency Fitch upgraded the ratings of a number of debt instruments held by Avista but cited concern of margin pressure and potential cash flow problems for a part of the business due to below normal hydro power operations.