By Jesse George, AAE New Orleans Policy Director
The holidays are a joyous time for celebration and reconnection, yet many of us- myself included- are just counting down the days to some much deserved time off. How are we supposed to lead the energy transition while feeling so depleted? Often this sparks conversations about self-care, the importance of setting boundaries and taking breaks but sometimes that just feels like a loss of momentum. It feels like something is missing.
It’s joy. Joy gives us the energy for change.
By Jessica Hendricks, AAE State Policy Director
The Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) has come into focus over the past week or so, namely around a proposed withdrawal from MISO and the enormous costs associated with storm damage, but there was also a pretty significant win that you may have missed.
As we will continue to say, the LPSC needs to prioritize finalizing the Energy Efficiency rules, recognizing that we are now entering Program Year 8 of the Quick Start program, the Commission did approve the program extension BUT WITH DOUBLE THE BUDGET!
By Andy Kowalczyk
By Jessica Hendricks, AAE State Policy Director
If your electric bill seems higher than it was last year, it is and you are not alone. Bills are up, in some cases even $20 more per month than where they were last year and as we continue to pry ourselves out of this economic recession, many folks just can’t keep up. Just last month, at the LPSC meeting, a Ville Platte resident went before the Louisiana Public Service Commission to make a formal complaint about how high utility bills are in his community. Although unacceptable, here are a few reasons why-
Usually line itemed as FAC (Fuel Adjustment Charge) on bills, this is a 100% pass through from the utility to the customer of costs associated with the fuel needed to generate electricity. As many know, natural gas prices are significantly higher than they were last year, and Louisiana relies heavily on natural gas power plants. The high cost of natural gas is causing a spike in the FAC on customer bills. Further, if you’re a SWEPCO or Cleco customer (or a customer of a utility that buys power from Cleco, like DEMCO and the City of Alexandria), you’re soldering the costs of an expensive lignite mine and power plant. The Oxbow Mine and Dolet Hills Power Station in Northern Louisiana are nowhere near cost effective anymore and the companies are in the process of retiring both facilities. The associated retirement costs have yet to go through a full prudence review by the LPSC meaning customers are on the hook for the expensive fuel costs, albeit subject to potential refunds in the future should the LPSC determine those costs were imprudent.
This is the amount charged per kWh. Louisiana has prided itself for years in having the lowest ‘rates’ in the country, around $0.08-$0.09/kWh. However, recent rate cases and Formula Rate Plan extensions approved by the LPSC have some utilities charging over $0.13/kWh which is above the national average of $0.12/kWh.
You’ve probably heard us say, “we’ve got the lowest rates, but highest bills”. A lot of that came down to usage and the costs associated with sustaining high usage. As mentioned above, we no longer have the lowest rates yet we still have some of the highest usage. Sure, we’ve got long hot summers, but so do our neighboring states. Yet they mitigate energy usage with long-term, robust energy efficiency programs. The LPSC has been working on these programs for over seven years and have yet to finalize them, while Louisianan’s pay the price on their monthly bills.
Riders and Surcharges
This is likely where interim cost recovery from storm damage is going to start to show up. Whether it was Hurricanes Laura, Delta, Zeta, or Winter Storm Uri, some of our utilities have already started recovering them subject to a prudence review. Costs of new power plants may also be lurking here.
Growing up in Lake Charles, Louisiana, my family prepared for each hurricane season by clearing debris and stocking our pantry with water and canned food in late May. In October, we stopped watching the Gulf of Mexico. These days, we prepare a whole month earlier and can’t fully relax until December. What used to be a summer to early fall hurricane season is now half the year, and it’s growing in both length and ferocity.
If we’re going to have any chance of saving our land, Louisiana needs real climate action and a serious investment in renewable energy. The petrochemical, oil and gas industries are threatening to hijack the process by spreading a myth about carbon capture — a myth that’s catching the ear of Gov. John Bel Edwards. But it’s not too late to tell a new story.
To confront this challenge, Edwards created the Climate Initiatives Task Force with the goal of creating a plan to achieve net zero carbon emissions in Louisiana by 2050. This task force includes advocates for climate equity and justice, as well as many representatives of the chemical, oil and gas industries. Since 2020, the task force members have been grappling over questions like whether Louisiana can afford to refuse the permitting and construction of new industrial facilities.
This task force and the governor of Louisiana should be asking the opposite question: can we afford to proceed as we have been? More importantly, can we look to industry to solve a problem that they created?!
**UPDATE: This meeting was postponed. At the Wednesday October 27, 2021 Special Meeting the Council approved both resolutions. YOU DID IT! Thanks to the public outcry over increases to Entergy rates the Council approved a resolution to protect people and keep bills down. ALSO, the Council opened a new docket on resilience and storm hardening for our energy system. This is where we work out how to put power where the people are and keep folks safe. We need this effort across the state too!
Entergy’s failures with regard to Ida are only part of a larger pattern of corporate corruption and dysfunction. Entergy has demonstrated repeatedly that it is committed to a way of doing business that is unaffordable to ratepayers and unable to provide the kind of reliability and resilience that are becoming more and more necessary in the face of climate disaster.
At its regular monthly meeting on Sept. 23, 2021, the New Orleans City Council passed a slate of resolutions opening investigations into ENO’s transmission planning and its planning and response around Hurricane Ida, as well as commissioning an independent management audit of the company.
New Orleanians — who already experience one of the highest energy burdens of any city in the nation — should not be required to pay a single dime more to ENO at least until the audit and investigations are complete. We need city council members who understand the awesome authority they wield over Entergy, and who have the courage to act boldly in their regulation of the company. The future habitability of our city quite literally depends on it.
Critics say utility wants to maximize profits and works to undermine regional power sharing model.
The idea behind the regional sharing model is to protect customers from major outages during ever-intensifying storms by delivering cheaper, more reliable electricity from other parts of the country. But former regulators and energy consultants say Entergy has never embraced the idea and, in some cases, works to undermine it so it can avoid competition.
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:
Entergy seeks $25 per month rate increase while pandemic rages, Council must freeze rates to protect ratepayers
By Jesse George, New Orleans Policy Director, AAE
On Friday, July 16, 2021, Entergy New Orleans (“ENO”) submitted a formal application to the New Orleans City Council (“the Council”) requesting an increase in electric and gas rates, citing shortfalls in revenue, despite its parent company, Entergy Corporation, reporting record profits of almost $1.4B in 2020. If the Council grants ENO’s request, average residential ratepayers would see an increase of approximately $25 more per month on their bills, based on 1000kWh of monthly usage.
In an unfortunate article in The Advocate that appeared on the same day as the application, ENO spun its request as the result of renewable energy costs, specifically a solar power project that it developed without prior Council approval. However, a closer look at ENO’s public filings reveal that the bulk of the increase is a result of investment in gas infrastructure, including the expensive and unpopular gas-fired power plant in New Orleans East. Meanwhile, the cost of renewable energy such as solar power continues to decrease.
While the Alliance for Affordable Energy supports a considered and comprehensive approach to our climate crisis, the work of this task force must be based on sound data and evidence if we are to meet the goal of net zero emissions by year 2050.
The sources of greenhouse gas emissions in Louisiana are clear, and industry is the primary polluter. I have heard a lot of discussion this morning about whether or not Louisiana can afford to refuse the permitting and construction of new industrial facilities. This task force should asking the opposite question: Can we afford to proceed as we have been?
The creation of this task force represents an opportunity to begin the difficult but necessary work of reversing decades of ecological destruction, but it must be guided by commitments to honest accounting, economic and racial equity, indigenous sovereignty, and a radical change in our relationship with the land and waters.
Check out the full comments made by our New Orleans Policy Director, Jesse George.
Louisiana Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell urges state to respond to climate change. Louisiana is now recognizing that it is vulnerable to rising seas and damaging storms.
We are an energy state, not just an oil and gas state. We have a task force studying climate change and promoting offshore wind. Our coastal industries are helping to build a wind-power sector. Utilities are investing in renewables.
We can fight climate change, develop new industries and jobs, and watch our state prosper. It is not too late.
City Council races must tackle issue of regulating Entergy By Monique Harden, Jesse George & Brent Newman
Article by Monique Harden, Jesse George & Brent Newman
Originally Published on The Lens
July 22, 2021
Too often, candidates seeking the office of City Council do not talk about the extraordinary power of regulating Entergy, our city’s electric power utility. No other elected city government in the United States has the power of our City Council to regulate an investor-owned utility company.
According to data kept by the US Department of Energy, more than half of New Orleans residents pay a high energy cost burden that’s as much as 28 percent of monthly income.
In the upcoming year, councilmembers will choose whether to address a broad set of energy needs. The next slate of elected council members will have to tackle critical issues on Entergy’s costs and services as well as opportunities for more residents to benefit from renewable energy and electrification.
The New Orleans City Council has an extraordinary power -- the regulation of Entergy as an investor-owned utility company. Though the Council has a designated Utility, Cable, Telecommunications and Technology Committee (“UCTTC”) consisting of five members, major regulatory decisions are brought to the full Council for voting. Thus, all New Orleans City Council members are both legislators and regulators of a major electric and gas utility.
For years, the Energy Future New Orleans Coalition has advocated for strong regulatory oversight of Entergy in order to lower costs to ratepayers, increase the reliability of electric service in New Orleans, and reduce greenhouse gas emissions that are the cause of the changing climate threatening the future of our city.
We have prepared this simple informational sheet to highlight some of the regulatory issues currently pending before the Council:
Calls for New Rules Limiting The Council's Ability to Accept Campaign Contributions from the Utilities They Regulate
By Jesse George, New Orleans Policy Director, AAE
On June 25, 2021, the Greater New Orleans Interfaith Climate Coalition sent a letter addressed to the New Orleans Ethics Review Board and copied to the entire City Council, calling for an amendment to the Code of Ethics prohibiting City Council candidates and incumbents from accepting campaign contributions from Entergy, the New Orleans Sewerage & Water Board, and other regulated utilities, as well as from their executives and political action committees. The letter further calls for a ban on campaign contributions from persons or firms that contract to provide services to the Council, such as the Council’s utility advisors. Finally, the letter calls for disclosure by candidates seeking the office of City Council of any financial or other compensation received from regulated entities or contractors within the past five years, or any board service rendered to the same at any time.
By Jesse George, New Orleans Policy Director
These comments were given at the Louisiana Department of Natural Resources hearing concerning LDNR Class IV-Well Primacy Application to the US Environmental Protection Agency.
Louisiana is a tragic case. Our state is addicted to fossil fuels, and like many addicts, instead of seeking to break our addiction, we seek ways to become functional addicts. The pipedream of carbon capture and sequestration is a prime example of this.
By Emily Sandstrom, AAE Intern
In June the Alliance gave public comment to the Louisiana Climate Initiatives Task Force (CITF) following a presentation on some hypothetical pathways to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions in Louisiana.
If all permitted and permit pending facilities in Louisiana listed are built, it would add 125 Million Metric Tons Per Year CO2e.
*CO2e = Carbon Dioxide Equivalent, which includes emissions from other greenhouse gasses like methane, weighted according to their impact.
The CF Industries fertilizer plant in Donaldsonville, pictured here, is currently Louisiana’s largest emitter of CO2e. Photo credit.
Exxon Mobil claims that it supports the goals in the Paris climate agreement and is committed to addressing climate change. However, Exxon lobbyist Keith McCoy was caught on video describing the company's efforts to undermine President Biden's climate and infrastructure proposals.
Article originally published on The Goldman Environmental Prize website
Shoutout to Sharon Levigne of Rise St. James, who has won the Goldman Prize for 2021! We're honored and excited to have worked alongside Sharon for years advocating for local Louisiana communities. The work is not done. With your help we look forward to being a part of the continued push to advance environmental justice in the South.
Read more to learn about the amazing success Sharon has had mobilizing grassroots opposition to the $1.25 billion plastics manufacturing plant that was set to be constructed alongside the Mississippi River in St. James Parish, Louisiana.