Entergy says bills expected to stay lower than last year despite summer’s brutal heat

“We have seen a dramatic decrease in the price of natural gas over the past year,” said Pierre Conner, Executive Director of the Tulane Energy Institute. “We’re down 50 percent in a year.”
Published: Jul. 6, 2023 at 10:42 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) - Despite excessive heat warnings and record-shattering temperatures in Louisiana, Entergy said bills are lower for consumers than last year due to decreased natural gas prices.

The utility wrote a letter to consumers, both in New Orleans and statewide, basically laying out the reasoning behind the drop in bill prices statewide over last year.

Last summer, high bills effectively broke the bank for customers across the state, with Entergy blaming the increases on exceedingly high natural gas prices.

“As always in the South, the need for additional electricity to cool your home or business during these extreme summertime temperatures will continue to be a significant driver for bills,” wrote Sandra Diggs-Miller, Vice President of Customer Service at Entergy New Orleans in Wednesday’s letter. “But we know that lower natural gas prices, leading to lower prices on your electricity bill, will be welcome news for all our customers.”

The utility reports natural gas costs are down more than 50 percent from the past year. Natural gas costs are passed onto consumers through fuel surcharges on bills.

“We’re down to prices we haven’t seen since 2020,” said Pierre Conner, Executive Director of the Tulane Energy Institute. “For consumers, utilities are buying their fuels in advance of their needs. These prices should be able to flow through as the fuel charge, fuel surcharge component of your utility bill that gets passed through, and natural gas prices are indeed lower.”

Utilities like Entergy, Conner said, store up natural gas in inventory year-round. Due to a milder winter and less international demand, he said natural gas prices have declined but he doesn’t expect them to stay low forever.

“Most futures curves show some slight increases in most projections over the course of the next several years, not nearly to the levels that you saw when it was spiking, and of course we’re significantly below prices we see in Europe,” Conner said. “With that weaker demand in the winter, more mild weather, less demand for international as well, we were able to refill our inventories, so we saw these higher inventory levels and lower prices.”

Meanwhile, some officials continue to call for changes at Entergy they said will benefit consumers.

“While we can be pleased to see the bills won’t rise as high, that does not negate the work that needs to be done and the investments they need to make to sure our bills stay affordable and low as our neighbors across the country have,” said Davante Lewis, Public Service Commissioner for District 3.

The Public Service Commission is a state body responsible for the regulation of utilities like Entergy.

Lewis said he wants to see the company investing in more renewable energy resources, like offshore wind and solar energy.

Entergy maintains it is already making significant investments in expansion of solar energy capacity statewide. Currently, only around 2 percent of the utility’s total production comes from renewables.

The utility also laid out a set of recommendations for customers to take heed of in order to reduce their bills:

  • Change air filters. Air filters on some air conditioning units require monthly cleaning or replacing.
  • Setting the thermostat to 78 degrees or the highest comfortable temperature. Every degree lower than 78 can raise a bill as much as 3%.
  • Buy a programmable thermostat. A programmable thermostat can help manage costs, is controllable, and can help monitor usage.
  • Use fans to cool off. Ceiling fans, box fans and oscillating fans use very little electricity to circulate the air. Make sure ceiling fans are rotating in the right direction – counter-clockwise during summer – to push cooler air down into the room. Be sure to turn all fans off in unused rooms.
  • Close blinds, shades and curtains to keep the sun out and the cool air in. Also, close air conditioning vents in rooms that are not in use.
  • Seal cracks and holes around doors, windows and ductwork. Weather stripping and caulk will help keep the cold air in and the hot air out.
  • Use the myAdvisor tool on myentergy.com. The usage and cost tool can compare usage history by month, day and hour.

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