NEW ORLEANS — The extended power outages across southeast Louisiana after last summer’s Hurricane Ida was a reminder of the vulnerabilities of the state’s power grid.
Entergy is now pushing an idea to roll out a fleet of natural gas-powered backup generators across the state.
They would be installed in places like grocery stores, Wal-Mart retail centers and other commercial businesses.
LA Public Service Commissioner Eric Skrmetta says the purpose of the generators is two-fold.
“To provide electricity on demand where it’s needed and the second element is to provide emergency power to critical facilities that can provide goods and services to the community where it’s needed,” Skrmetta said.
In documents submitted to the PSC, Entergy asks that the cost of the generators be borne by its customer base.
Alliance for Affordable Energy Executive Director Logan Burke says they oppose the idea because of the cost burden on ratepayers and Entergy’s reliance on fossil fuels to run the units.
“Gas-fired generation is not clean and it does cause local ground-level ozone issues and particulate matter which can cause health concerns,” Burke said. “The alliance put forward testimony on how the utility could look at solar plus storage as a resilient option.”
Burke also fears a lack of transparency as to where the generators would be located.
“It means communities might not know that there’s a new gas generator in their neighborhood.”
Commissioner Skrmetta admits more details need to be worked out before the PSC votes on the proposal.
“We’re going to make sure the ratepayers are fully protected,” he said. “We are going to make sure there is adequate, proper sharing the costs associated with the hosting and the payments by the host for the facility.”
Skrmetta does not expect the generator program to be in place in time for the upcoming hurricane season which runs from June through the end of November.
LA PSC Chairman Lambert Boissier III, who represents some of the parishes in the New Orleans metro told WWL-TV, “This is something we are still studying at the PSC. The details and facts have yet to be determined. I would not support the proposal unless it’s a benefit to the ratepayers.”