By Andy Kowalczyk
As New Orleanians sat in the dark for days or evacuated our homes, it seemed like everyone was asking one question: how did the grid fail so dramatically in our city and throughout Louisiana? And how did the grid go down not only this summer during Hurricane Ida, but also in February during Winter Storm Uri?
The sad fact is that our electric utility Entergy's behavior, and the attitudes of many consultants and regulators in Southern states, has followed a standard of profit-seeking and neglect for the transmission system.
Nearly a decade ago, Entergy Corporation -- along with its subsidiary companies throughout Arkansas, Louisiana, Texas and Mississippi -- began an experiment. The premise was to incorporate a company with vast market power, to join an organization whose priority is to plan a more affordable and reliable energy system, called the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). The plan looked good on paper, given that Entergy was under U.S. Department of Justice antitrust investigation. The DOJ had voiced serious concerns about the utility’s anticompetitive business practices, and suggested that Entergy join a Regional Transmission Organization, that could encourage greater cooperation with other utilities, power generation owners, and stakeholders throughout the South and the Midwest. But without following through on a recommendation from the DOJ for Entergy to sell off its transmission business to a transmission-only company, it remained to be seen whether the grid would continue to be run for profit, or public good.
NEW ORLEANS – Sept. 14, 2021 – The coalition Energy Future New Orleans (EFNO) is calling on the New Orleans City Council to hold Entergy accountable for its mismanagement and neglect of rusting and aging equipment which led to a city-wide power outage following Hurricane Ida, and follows a host of failures by the utility corporation.
Today, attorneys for EFNO members filed a motion with the City Council that seeks:
We’ve been told a lot of things we now know aren’t true, like renewables are too expensive. Climate change isn’t real. If you let us build a new gas plant it will keep the lights on.
Hurricane Ida left hundreds of thousands in southeast Louisiana without power despite years of promises by Entergy that our communities would not have a repeat of power grid failures if they could just build that plant in New Orleans East. We have already learned that the promise of power coming back without outside transmission was false.
Hurricane-driven blackouts in New Orleans send a dire warning about the need for distributed energy by Jeff St. John
Entergy's new gas power plant couldn't stop a grid collapse. Community groups want to give local solar and batteries a chance.
Utilities are paid a guaranteed rate of return on capital investments including power plants, giving them an incentive to convince regulators to approve big power plants rather than enabling customer-sited distributed energy such as rooftop solar.
For Logan Atkinson Burke, executive director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, this failure to prioritize community resilience in the face of deadly storms is “beyond frustrating.” Burke said in a Monday phone call, “Had we taken the time and initiative to plan for distributed generation, distributed solar-plus-storage and more energy efficiency, people would be more prepared to shelter safely and comfortably.”
A year-long study by U.S. Department of Energy labs found that microgrids in New Orleans could offer critical “lifeline support” to gas stations, grocery stores, pharmacies and other essential neighborhood services.
As the Gulf South rebuilds following Hurricane Ida, we know people across the region will need help, including funding for lodging, food, basic necessities, and even gas money. There are incredible organizations working to move funds to the ground immediately. We trust the following folks: