This past January 2018, Louisiana and the rest of the MISO South region experienced a Maximum Generation (MaxGen) event during a cold snap where temperatures dropped to the teens in South Louisiana.
Well, the verdict is still out at the Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC), where a docket was opened to investigate the event, and North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) & Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) announced a joint inquiry into the factors that pushed our electric grid to the brink of rolling blackouts. Despite these investigations and attempts at identifying problems in order to learn from our mistakes, the entire MISO region experienced yet another Max Gen event in September when temperatures were higher than usual and folks were forced to crank the a/c to keep cool in our old drafty houses.
Sure, blackouts were averted and our power didn’t go out, but before we all start patting ourselves on the back for swift action in following emergency protocol, we are all still going to see the consequences on our monthly electricity bill. It’s simple supply and demand. If you know you’re going to want a po’ boy after that brass show, it’s going to be much more expensive if you have to get it delivered at 2am from the other side of town because that’s the only place that’s open. Similarly, when we NEED ENERGY RIGHT NOW, we’re going to have to pay a pretty penny for it.
For example, the picture on the left shows energy right now on the MISO market at about $30/MWh in Louisiana. During the MISO Max Gen even in September, energy costs maxed out at $3,500/MWh, as shown in the picture on the right. Yep, over a 116% increase, that is going to go right on our bills in two months through the Fuel Adjustment Charge (FAC).
So what happened this time? High temps are nothing new for September in South Louisiana, so why did a 97 degree day nearly cause the grid to fail? According to MISO, it’s a result of being off 3 degrees on the weather forecast and some power plant outages, but according to U.S. Energy Administration Administration (EIA) data, we know 1,428 MW that we were counting on, didn’t come through. Grand Gulf Nuclear Station supplies power to all of Entergy customers in the MISO South region, and in a MISO reporting call, representatives claimed that the Max Gen event could have been avoided entirely had Grand Gulf been functioning properly.
Still with us? I know it can be a lot of info, but here’s the deal. Louisiana ratepayers are once again going to foot the bill for Entergy’s lack of reliability. Grand Gulf has not been a reliable resource for three years. Will this continue to happen? We need our regulators, both at the LPSC and New Orleans City Council to ask the tough questions with a prudence review to get to the bottom of these mysterious outages at Grand Gulf. We’re paying for energy that is not available when we need it, and then overpaying for energy in an emergency. Want to speak up? Here’s the contact info for the LPSC, and if you’re in Orleans Parish, you can call City Council and let them know we need a prudence review of Grand Gulf.
While you’re at it, make sure to mention the need for robust energy efficiency and real demand response programs to simply reduce our overall energy load! Even during times of peak energy need, there’s no reason we can’t keep the lights on at a reasonable cost.