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City Council turns up heat on Entergy to reduce power outages

Updated: Jul. 19, 2018 at 5:09 PM CDT
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NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - City Council members peppered Entergy New Orleans representatives with questions Thursday about the number of power outages, especially those that occur during good weather.

The company, for its part, said it continues to work to improve its system.

"If you look at the numbers from February 1 to March 31, 86% of the power outages happened during fair weather. Over 50% of those outages were because of equipment failures. That's a concern. That's a real problem," said City Councilman-at-Large Helena Moreno.

Entergy admits its system reliability declined in 2016 and 2017 compared to the 2013-2015 time frame.

The company said it continues to work to address the issues and has invested an incremental $10 million in the distribution system.

"What we are trying to do, we are trying to reduce outages to customers, and we're trying to reduce the number of customers that are affected by it," said Tim Cragin, lead counsel for Entergy.

But council members are not convinced that Entergy is doing enough.

"Where did you come up with the $10 million figure? And it sounds like you all came up with what you wanted to put towards the problem, not what the problems called for," said Council President Jason Williams.

Some members of the public expressed frustration with the outages.

"The only way we will make Entergy accountable is through competition and financial penalties," said Happy Johnson.

"This didn't happen overnight, this has been ongoing," said Logan Burke, Executive Director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy.

Councilman Jay Banked ticked off outages at his home since last August.

"August 30th, October 2nd, January 17, May 15, May 16th, May 28th, June 11th, all of those dates I got a text [from Entergy]," said Banks.

He said whatever the problems are, they need to be fixed.

"If it's a transformer, if it's squirrels, if it's mutant-ninja squirrels - whatever it is in that area, there is clearly a problem," continued Banks.

And in answering City Council members' questions, Entergy reps sometimes weren't on the same page with their answers.

"So where would you want the percentage of equipment failures to be at? Right now you're close to about 50%, so where would you want to be?" asked Councilwoman Moreno.

"Near perfect, I would definitely put it under 10%," answered Yancey Dawson, Senior Project Manager for Entergy.

"I want to say I think we need to study that more," said Cragin in response to Dawson's comment.

After the meeting, Moreno expressed concern about the lack of consistency from the company.

"We were trying to set a clear benchmark. Okay, where do you want to be on equipment outages? And one gentleman who's supposed to be their expert said they'd like only 10% of their outages to be equipment failures, but then the next thing we know the lawyers are jumping in, saying. 'Oh we don't know if we want to be,'" she said.

And Moreno put Entergy on notice that she will write a letter soon stating that local ratepayers should not foot the bill for legal expenses related to the scandal over paid actors packing a public meeting to support Entergy's plan for a new power plant in New Orleans East.

"Not only the actor scandal, but this whole distribution and reliability issue. I mean, both of these issues were caused by Entergy themselves," Moreno said.

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