Even as the costs of methane gas continue to rise, in turn increasing the cost of electricity in the region, Entergy Louisiana is requesting the go-ahead from the Louisiana Public Service Commission for the right to contract with large commercial and industrial customers to install new gas fired generators in a neighborhood near you. Maybe.
Among the many reasons the Alliance is concerned about this new application, including continued investment in fossil fuel infrastructure, new costs borne by residents, new localized emissions within neighborhoods, and an increased dependence on methane gas for electricity generation (the state currently generates 70% of electricity from the fossil fuel), the ability for the utility to side-step the Commission’s market based mechanisms designed to ensure Entergy purchases or provides the lowest-cost power, we worry that the utility and “host” customers who would participate in this program would resist public visibility into the placement of these facilities. And since some of these projects would be small enough to evade air emissions permitting, you simply wouldn’t know if your community is now home to a gas peaker plant.
Entergy has taken it’s “power through” idea to all of the states where it serves customers, including Texas, Mississippi, and Arkansas, but not once has it seriously considered the long-term impacts of installing a fleet of peaking gas units, including impacts such as more greenhouse gas emissions, further volatility in international gas costs, or even other options like solar and storage facilities. Unfortunately for Louisianans, the program designed for our state is roughly 12x the size of the pilot approved in Mississippi, and depends far more on residents paying for these projects than in our neighboring state.
The “selling” point of the program, says Entergy, is reliable power when their grid goes down. Setting aside the fact that this is tantamount to the utility admitting Louisiana reliability is the worst in the nation (only hitting 47th if you remove storms), what is astonishing is that this is not actually what the utility is asking to do. Within the docket, it is clear the utility is also asking for the right to run these gas peaker plants when Entergy wants to, even when the power doesn’t go out, meaning your neighborhood grocery store (if they sign up to be a host) could pollute the neighborhood any time.
The Alliance submitted testimony in the docket, which was subsequently stricken by the Administrative Law Judge, with analysis showing that rather than using a fleet of gas peakers, the utility could instead support the installation of solar and storage on commercial and industrial facilities that would benefit customers and the grid every day, without any of the harmful emissions impacts.
We sincerely hope that Louisiana utilities do not intend for their “resilience” plans in response to the fossil fueled climate crisis to simply be a doubling down on more GHG emitting facilities. International climate experts are telling us regularly that we must turn away from fossil infrastructure. Furthermore, the Governor’s Climate Initiatives Task Force’s report, which charts a path to net-zero, includes as one of its action items a recommendation to support solar + storage.