f you read the recent commentary from Entergy New Orleans CEO Charles Rice, you might have gotten the impression that a new gas plant is a panacea for New Orleans' energy problems. A thorough cost-benefit analysis, however, leads to a different conclusion: that a new gas plant is a poor investment for New Orleans.
First, there is no demonstrable need for a new gas plant. Entergy’s projections for electricity demand remain mostly flat for the next two decades. Furthermore, 98 percent of the outages that New Orleanians have experienced in the last year have been caused by problems with the power lines, and the remaining 2 percent were caused by transmission problems. A new gas plant won’t address any of the thousands of outages that occur each year, because we don’t need more electricity; we just need to make sure it can get to where it’s needed (Entergy’s proposed gas plant may not address our outage problem, but it will guarantee them an 11 percent profit).
Second, this proposed gas plant is wasteful. It would function primarily as a peaking plant, operating only 40-50 hours a year when demand for electricity is greatest. Instead of spending the estimated $220 million it would cost to build such a plant, we could reduce our peak demand by pursuing energy efficiency measures and renewables, investments that would save money and provide year-round benefits for New Orleans residents.
The two recent cold snaps should serve as another example of why New Orleans needs local generation to provide safe, reliable power more than …
Third, by not spending the ratepayer’s money on this gas plant, we can instead invest in the new technologies that are revolutionizing the energy grid. Utilities around the world are moving toward an electricity system where generating capacity comes from many sources spread throughout cities and able to operate outside the main grid, creating the potential for cheaper, smarter, more reliable, and more resilient energy. We should decide as a city to embrace that change, and bring our infrastructure into the 21st century.
After looking at the evidence, it’s clear that a new gas plant is not what is best for our city. The only thing it’s best for is Entergy’s bottom line.