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.
Unaccounted for in ENO’s request are the millions in federal dollars that the utility receives through the federal Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, or LIHEAP, which provides financial assistance to those experiencing energy burden. That program received funding increases both in 2020 and 2021.
In March 2021, the chair of the Council’s Utility, Cable, Telecommunications and Technology Committee, Helena Moreno, committed to an independent audit of ENO’s management practices. In 2019, the Hawaii Public Utilities Commission ordered a similar audit of Hawaiian Electric, which identified the potential for $21M in immediate savings to ratepayers, as well as an additional $26M in savings that could be achieved within one year.
The City of New Orleans, dependent on tourism as it is to sustain its economy, is still suffering heavily under the conditions of the COVID pandemic. Many residents are still unemployed or underemployed, while others face the imminent threat of eviction. It would be unconscionable for the Council to raise utility rates at a time when so many are experiencing such precarity. There should be no rate increase under pandemic conditions, nor until the Council has followed through on its commitment to an audit of ENO. Before we pick the pockets of New Orleans ratepayers struggling already to make ends meet, let us first open up ENO’s books to public scrutiny.
About the Author
Jesse George is a lifelong resident of south Louisiana, having been born and raised in Lake Charles, a major fossil fuel and petrochemical corridor. Witnessing the degradation and destruction that these industries have wrought on the health of fenceline communities and the natural landscape has instilled in him a lifelong passion for environmental justice.
Jesse is happy to be back with the Alliance for Affordable Energy after having begun his legal career at the organization, where he represented the Alliance before the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the New Orleans City Council, and other regulatory bodies. Following the 2010 BP oil spill, he accepted a position with The Pro Bono Project, handling oil spill claims for indigent clients. His tenure at The Pro Bono Project spanned more than a decade, during which time he practiced in various areas of law, before being promoted to Director of Legal Services.