NEW ORLEANS — For so many people in New Orleans right now, power bills are making them feel powerless.
“I was completely shocked,” said Madeline Leon when she saw her bill for her Gentilly home.
Leon says normally this time of year her bill is near or at the $200 mark. Her current bill is $500.44. She along with many Entergy New Orleans customers are being hit with drastic spikes.
“I think it’s a confluence of multiple issues that are all stacking up together,” said Logan Burke, executive director of Alliance for Affordable Energy.
Burke says the alliance got concerned after Entergy sent a letter to the New Orleans City Council in December laying out an increase in what’s called the Fuel Adjustment Clause.
That’s because two power plants Entergy uses were down, forcing the company to buy $3.9 million worth of power from somewhere else. Entergy customers still must pay for those plants, regardless of whether they’re operating.
Part of that letter reads as follows:
“In accordance with Paragraph B of Rider Schedule FAC-8 (Fuel Adjustment Clause or “FAC”), Entergy New Orleans, LLC (“ENO”) hereby notifies the Council that the Company’s preliminary calculation of the January 2021 FAC factor indicates an increase of more than $0.01/kWh over the previous billing month. The January 2021 FAC factor for ENO customers is estimated to be $0.019762/kWh compared to the actual billed December 2020 FAC factor of $0.007434/kWh.
As reflected in the attached chart, Table 1, the key driver of the variance is a $3.9 million increase in fuel costs. Most of this increase is due to two generating plant outages, one at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station (“Grand Gulf”) and another at Union Power Station (“UPB1”). Grand Gulf entered an unplanned outage on November 6, 2020, during which necessary maintenance work was performed.
Following the completion of the unplanned outage, the unit entered a planned outage that ended on December 3. UPB1 took a planned outage to install a 2.0 MW emergency diesel generator, which outage lasted from October 23, 2020, to November 24, 2020.”
“Since 2016 Grand Gulf, which is one of those power plants, has been problematic and has been causing lots of extra charges on bills,” said Burke.
Leon’s cost for fuel and purchased power is $87.31. There’s also a new fee to help pay for a new plant in New Orleans East. For Leon, that’s $24.88. Alliance for Affordable Energy has long advocated against that plant.
“We’ll be paying for that plant for 30 years or so,” said Burke.
Monday Entergy New Orleans CEO Davis Ellis told Eyewitness news there are other factors as well. Ellis points to a 12 percent increase in the cost of gas, five additional days in the latest billing cycle and higher customer usage during a cold December.
Considering all those factors, Leon’s electric base charge is $300.27 which she says doesn’t make sense.
“If it was something I feel that we deserved, I wouldn’t have any complaints, but no way we used that much electricity,” said Leon.
Burke says all the add ups can be a problem for costumers.
“What we don’t want to see is New Orleanians being disconnected which is what we’re afraid really may happen starting in February,” said Burke.
Entergy reports customers should expect next month’s bill to be lower because those plants are back online and the billing cycle will be shorter. If you have questions about your bill, Entergy is asking you to call customer service at 1-800-ENTERGY. There will be a special utilities meeting through the city council next week to question these higher bills.