Dive brief:

  • New Orleans City Council President on Tuesday called for an investigation into Entergy’s performance during Hurricane Ida, which cut off power to the entire city for days with some residents without power for two weeks in the midst of a sweltering summer heat.
  • Board member Helena Moreno, chair of the utilities committee, worries about the failure of all major transmission lines to New Orleans and the role played in the days after the storm by a back-up power plant $ 210 million, said Andrew Tuozzolo, Moreno’s chief of staff. .
  • Moreno plans to present a resolution calling for an investigation into Entergy’s response to the storm and related issues at the September 22 city council meeting.

Dive overview:

The call for an investigation by one of New Orleans’ top elected officials comes as Entergy, about three weeks after the powerful hurricane, tackles the last remaining blackouts in Louisiana, with an estimated 46,000 in the rural communities still without electricity Thursday afternoon.

The decision of the head of the city council also comes as Entergy is increasingly criticized by environmental groups.

Opposing the construction of the 128 MW New Orleans Power Plant (NOPS?), Which began commercial operation in May 2020 and was supposed to provide ‘black start’ capabilities that would generate electricity for the city if other systems failed, the Sierra Club, the Alliance for Affordable Energy and the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice are now wondering if the plant performed as advertised.

Meanwhile, if Moreno is able to get his resolution passed through the council, it would set a number of wheels in motion.

First, the board would forward the resolution to the Louisiana Civil Service Commission and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, effectively calling on the two regulators to initiate their own reviews, said Tuozzolo, chief of staff of Moreno.

The resolution would also give the green light to Moreno’s proposal to commission an independent study into Entergy’s handling of Hurricane Ida, with his office ready to send qualification requests to companies in the hope of getting a completed report. within a few months, said Tuozzolo. .

Moreno is also concerned about the performance of the NOPS forced-start plant and would like more information from Entergy on where the electricity produced by the plant was sent and whether it provided electricity to communities. beyond New Orleans.

The factory itself was paid for exclusively by city taxpayers, Tuozzolo said.

The head of the city council is also concerned about transmission line failures and whether proper maintenance has been carried out on this key piece of infrastructure, as well as what needs to be done in the future. to harden the network as the region faces increasingly intense storms. , he said.

The collapse of transmission lines connecting New Orleans to the outside world included the collapse of a large transmission tower, which, while not inherently crippling, made people realize the importance of the problem, according to Tuozzolo. .

“We think it’s emblematic of the kind of concerns we have about maintenance, reliability, serviceability, hardening and frankly resilience,” said Tuozzolo.

In addition, the head of the city council would also like to determine whether Entergy, an investor-owned utility, is a good fit for the city. Moreno wants to explore other potential alternatives, such as a municipal or consumer-owned utility, or find a way to introduce competition into the city’s electricity market.

The resolution also calls for a management audit of Entergy.

“We need to know the answers to important questions about the actual performance of the Entergy system and, further, about the reforms we need to undertake to create a more sustainable and affordable future for the people of New Orleans,” said Moreno said in a press release.

A spokesperson for Entergy said the company plans to attend the New Orleans city council meeting on Wednesday.

“Entergy New Orleans will be attending upcoming utility and council committee meetings, and looks forward to discussing these important issues with city council,” the spokesperson said in an email.