Entergy Louisiana customers to pay for an additional $1.5 billion for Hurricane Ida repairs

Entergy Louisiana
Entergy Louisiana(WVUE)
Published: Jan. 19, 2023 at 9:53 PM CST|Updated: Jan. 20, 2023 at 8:16 AM CST
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METAIRIE, La. (WVUE) - About a million Entergy Louisiana customers will foot a $1.5 billion repair bill in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida.

The utility company says residential customers will see about $5.50 added to their monthly bill for the next 15 years to cover the remaining costs of damaged electrical equipment and the thousands of utility workers that rushed to restore power after the major storm. The fee would only apply to Entergy Louisiana customers, not Entergy New Orleans customers.

Entergy initially requested nearly $1.7 billion in financing for the repairs, but the Public Service Commission negotiated to lower the proposal by about $180 million.

The financing was approved 3-to-2 by the commission, but not before District 5 Commissioner Foster Campbell and newly elected District 3 Commissioner Davante Lewis voted against the measure.

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Lewis voiced his concerns about adding another fee for storm repairs after the commission approved a $3.2 billion storm fee in Feb. 2022.

“I’ve been on the job just 19 days and just the amount of complaints that my office has received from consumers who are facing disconnection and unreliable service is just catastrophic,” Lewis said. “These votes are not as simple as we make them out to be. These are real life people. Everyone on the commission can afford five dollars. Not everyone in the state can afford five dollars. We have to stop thinking about (the people) in the room and start thinking about the people who are not in the room.”

Lewis is concerned about what an additional fee would do if gas prices soar again or if another storm barrels its way toward Louisiana. He also worried about what it means for families struggling to buy groceries.

“Inflation is real right now,” Metairie resident Alex Howard said.

Howard says her family used to get by on about $100 a week for groceries but now she’s saying that’s doubled. While she pays for electricity at a fix rate, she says she worries how her loved ones and others will fare as the cost of living rises.

“Entergy is already tacking on so much, so many fees and adding to it. I don’t think it’s fair,” she said. “Everything is going up but our pay at work is not going up so I really don’t know how I’m going to manage.”

A bump in electricity costs is also a concern for small businesses like La Cocina de Antonio. Caterer Antonio Hernandez runs operations through his Metairie home. He says business has been steady going into the new year but worries about losing clients if the cost of cooking soars.

“I’m so scared of the electricity bill. I never paid more than $200 and the last few bills have been $200 or more,” Hernandez said. “I have to raise my prices to keep the quality of the food to keep my business running. But some people don’t like it when the prices go up.”

To curb energy price spikes in the future, Lewis says he wants an independent audit of the storm recovery process. He says that would allow the Public Service Commission to understand better how utility companies assess storm damage and determine what repairs they pay for and what the customers pay for.

“I don’t think it’s a sustainable solution to say every time a hurricane comes, and equipment is damaged, consumers have to pay for it because that’s the model that we’ve established. I don’t believe in that model. I don’t think it’s appropriate. I don’t think it’s just to our people,” He said.

Entergy Louisiana declined an interview with FOX 8 but did send a statement saying:

On Jan. 18, the Louisiana Public Service Commission approved Entergy Louisiana’s request to finance $1.5 billion in storm costs using low-cost bonds through a process called securitization. This securitization permits the costs to be financed with generally lower-cost capital and in conjunction with previously approved storm securitizations is projected to save customers billions over the long-term as compared with other methods of financing. The costs being financed are related to restoring the electric system after Hurricane Ida, which brought historic winds and damage to our shores in August of 2021. Entergy Louisiana and the LPSC worked to secure approximately $1 billion for Ida recovery in February of this year. To lessen the impact to customers’ bills, the costs will be collected over an expected 15-year term through a line item appearing on monthly bills, similar to recovery for previous hurricanes like Laura, Delta and Zeta. The monthly bill effect for a 1,000-kWh residential customer is estimated at around $5.50 a month but could change based on interest rates at the time of issuance of the bonds. While the new monthly charge could be included on bills as early as April, it’s contingent upon when closing on the financing occurs. Entergy Louisiana is continuing to advocate for federal disaster relief, and to any extent the company is reimbursed for a portion of storm costs, it will reduce future bill impacts related to Ida. In addition, the company is continuing to seek federal aid to bolster existing grid resiliency plans and, ultimately, accelerate efforts to strengthen and harden the electric system ahead of future storms. Doing so will help us restore power quickly and safely and avoid costly restoration efforts; however, it is a long-term commitment and one that will take time.

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