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How utility companies are preparing for the arctic freeze

While it may only last a few days, utility companies have prepped for this all year round. Both Entergy and CLECO say they’ve been assessing equipment.

NEW ORLEANS — The cold weather is about to get colder. While it may only last a few days, utility companies have prepped for this all year round. Both Entergy and CLECO say they’ve been assessing equipment.  

“We have a lot of different critical equipment in our plants and we’ve looked at insolating and isolating them to ensure they withstand lower temperatures to prevent freezing and breaks,” Steven Benyard, Entergy’s VP of Reliability for Louisiana, said. “The other thing we’re doing to feed our plant is to monitor our gas infrastructure as well.” 

“We make sure our transmission is up good and we have adequate transmission which we’ve done. We’ve invested large sums of money to make sure those areas that are prone to issues are up adequate,” Fran Phoenix, Communication Strategist for CLECO said.  

The utility companies say they are not expecting a repeat of February 2021 when New Orleans and surrounding areas saw rolling blackouts after an ice storm in Texas. 

If rolling blackouts were to happen, it’d be to protect the entire region’s energy system from failing. Mid-continent Independent System Operator, or MISO, monitors the region's energy grid, they would be the ones to decide if and when rolling blackouts were necessary.  

“While we never want to shed load and have a rolling blackout it is sometimes necessary to protect the entire system,” Phoenix said.  

Both Entergy and CLECO say they would try and contact customers before any possible blackouts. Before a blackout, utility companies would first ask customers to reduce energy usage voluntarily.  

“If we do have extreme weather and usage reaches extreme levels the demand for electricity could potentially exceed the value of available generation because of the cold but with that said, in that case, we request customers to voluntarily reduce their electrical use first before we had to go down that path,” Benyard said.  

Reducing energy usage throughout the week, leading up to even colder temperatures can also help reduce the strain on the system and prevent rolling blackouts. CLECO and Entergy suggest doing things like washing clothes in cold water, checking your insolation, and repairing any leaks. 

“Replacing your air filters, sometimes we forget about that but we should do that monthly, we also believe you should find a seal leaks because during the winter you want to keep your heat in so if you have leaks and don’t have good weather stripping that heat is escaping,” Phoenix said. “Your drapes and shades during the heat of the day so you can take advantage of your solar energy to keep heat in and close them at night to keep cold air out use energy-efficient holiday lights.” 

Entergy says throughout the next few days they will suspend any planned power disconnections for Entergy New Orleans customers.  

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