By Emma King, AAE Research Analyst Intern
New Orleans is a city in which residents and businesses are plagued with frequent power outages. These outages are more than an inconvenience and affect people in a myriad of ways. This report provides a detailed understanding of how these outages hinder the New Orleans community by splitting the topic into four parts. The first discusses the problem of outages by calculating the cost to energy consumers and comparing outage data from Entergy New Orleans, the city’s utility provider, to previously-conducted studies as well as the national average and averages from other Louisiana utilities. The second part examines the diverse implications of outages in New Orleans that may not be included in the calculated monetary cost because of the broad and encompassing effects of outages. The third section provides solutions to outages that can be undertaken by individuals, businesses, and cities as a whole. The fourth section places these solutions into the context of current efforts to reduce outages and improve energy efficiency in New Orleans and suggests how we move forward from here.
Louisiana’s Energy Efficient (EE) program is currently in the Quick Start phase which includes a ‘Political Subdivision’ component that allows public entities to apply for funding from the Louisiana Public Service Commission to contract with an energy service company (ESCO) to conduct EE upgrades at the facility. This is often used by school districts and city governments to upgrade HVAC systems or replace residential street lighting. The process to receive this funding would be through an LPSC approved proposal, submitted by a political subdivision that has secured a contract with an ESCO. The program is funded through rate-payer dollars.
The Alliance identified major concerns with this program due to its lack of transparency and oversight. Program reporting is done only once every three years and a Public Records Request is required to view the reports as well as the applications. We initially submitted a Public Record Request for the first round of applications in the Fall of 2017 to discover significant overspending and no requirement for cost-effectiveness. A more detailed write up of our findings from the first round of proposals is below. In our efforts to continue to monitor this program, we submitted another public records request for the applications submitted for 2019. 58 applications were submitted, totaling 1,258 pages, equaling $434.50 in copies. The price is the same for an electronic version as the applications still need to be scanned in.
The first round of proposals were due on June 15, 2017. Ten proposals were submitted, nine of those proposals contracted with the same ESCO, Brilliant Efficiencies. The tenth one was contracted with Green Coast Enterprises and Moses Engineering. The Alliance for Affordable Energy filed a public records request in regards to the proposals, some key findings are below
The stark differences in savings led to further investigation into the 9 projects led by Brilliant Efficiencies. These energy efficient upgrades include:
Furthermore, the supporting documentation including the specifications of these lights are the exact same spec sheets linked to above except that the LumEfficient logo and contact info at the bottom of the page has been replaced with Brilliant Efficiencies.
Considering Brilliant Efficiencies website was non-functional during late 2017, LumEfficient appeared to be the only distributor of said lights, and they were contacted regarding a price quote on the models requested. After navigating through the supplier, wholesaler and eventually distributor, the price quote for a random sample size of these lights was consistently 50% less expensive than what Brilliant Efficiencies proposed.
These ten Energy Efficient proposals were approved at the December 2017 B & E meeting the same day the Commission altered the program rules to require more stringent cost effectiveness for future applications.
This is extremely concerning, not only because of the exorbitant costs to ratepayers, but also because this play by Brilliant Efficiencies has the potential to derail the State’s Energy Efficiency program. These inflated costs to ratepayers could be used to make an argument against Energy Efficiency due to a lack of cost effectiveness. However, the one proposal led by St. John the Baptist Parish School Board in partnership with Green Coast Enterprises stands in contrast to prove that if done correctly, Energy Efficiency most certainly is cost effective. St. John the Baptist School Board will have saved $3,567,920.95 in the 21 years that it will take Jefferson Parish to meet their capital costs based on their annual savings.
Energy Efficiency is by far our cheapest energy resource, yet if proposals are not subject to any cost effectiveness test, Louisiana ratepayers are on the hook to pay inflated costs to an apparent fly-by-night energy service company. Is Energy Efficiency going to just be business as usual in Louisiana or will we hold our Energy Efficiency program to task of savings Louisiana residents millions of dollars?