Public Service Commission approves Entergy plan, rate hike

Published 5:18 pm Friday, April 19, 2024

The Louisiana Public Service Commission (LPSC) approved a plan proposed by Entergy Louisiana to spend $1.9 billion over the next three years on a plan the utility says will make their grid more resilient to storms. It involves above the ground poles, chiefly.

Entergy representatives said bills will increase 57 cents in 2025, $2.64 in 2026 and increase through 2029 when the increase would reach $7.19.

Mike Francis, Craig Greene, and Eric Skrmetta voted to approve the plan, Commissioners Davante Lewis and Foster Campbell voted against. Foster made a motion to defer the vote until the May meeting. It was voted down.  Mike Francis is the Commissioner for Southwest Louisiana.

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A deferral seemed a reasonable request for a plan that was placed on the docket Monday for the Friday, April 19 vote, giving the public little time to learn about it, respond or make plans to travel to Cypress Bend Resort where the meeting was being held, a place where there are no Entergy customers.

While the docket had eleven participating organizations and companies, Entergy’s motion had no support from any party, according to an email from the Alliance for Affordable Energy, the only consumer advocate non-profit in Louisiana for utility customers.

“While The Alliance supports utility spending on grid hardening as we’ve been faced with stronger storms and more extreme weather year after year, we have conflict with the way the utility appears to have circumvented the standard LPSC procedure which allows for all stakeholders to thoroughly review the proposed framework to ensure and fully understand the benefits associated with the investment made by all Entergy Louisiana customers,” said Jessica Hendricks, the Alliance for Affordable Energy’s State Policy Director.

Together Louisiana’s Eric Hansen asked the LPSC to delay this vote, to shine a light on this question and to allow for more public input. “We believe that decisions made in the light of day better represent the interest of regular people who those decisions affect,” she said. “Those made under the cover of darkness tend to represent special interests.”

Together Louisiana is a statewide network of more than 240 religious congregations and civic organizations representing more than 200,000 people.

Commissioner Lewis had no idea the original proposal had been amended until after the vote when the modifications were read. “You filed on Monday and I’m finding about modifications while you read the motion and we’re calling that transparent?” he asked.

The Entergy spokesperson said the PSC retained two consulting firms, partly responsible for helping hammer out the arrangement. Originally Entergy filed for the approval of a 5-year, $5 billion proposal, the first phase of a ten-year plan. Phase 1 had been pending with the PSC for 16 months. The $1.9 billion proposal seeks appraisal for a specific subset of work.

Hendrix said Entergy was in communication with PSC staff, but other stakeholders were not included – until the $1.9 billion plan was publicly released on Monday.  The Alliance did not have the opportunity to vet the new proposal.

It feels like a “giant check has been written and the public commission is about to sign it, but that check is linked to our bank account,” Hansen said.

“Why does it need to be rushed through?” asked James Hiatt. The Lake Charles resident  spoke as a citizen and Entergy rate payer. “I am still paying for storm damage. Entergy’s earnings in 2023 were twice what they were in 2022.  If I could choose a different company, I would. Nobody would disagree that we need the grid hardened, but why can’t we put off the vote for just a month, noting that another agenda item concerning Entergy and solar power had been deferred until May.