In response to the power failures caused by the massive storm Hurricane Ida, City Council President Helena Moreno is launching an investigation into Entergy New Orleans, and proposing a study “on retail competition and utility ownership in New Orleans.”
As a resident of New Orleans, I appreciate Moreno’s passionate efforts on behalf of our city. But as the executive director of Power for Tomorrow — an organization that is made up of consumer advocates, electric utilities, former lawmakers and regulators, Democrats and Republicans, and organized labor committed to exposing the risks of deregulation — I want to stress that allowing third-party retailers to sell power to residents would mean higher electric bills, and less reliable power, for the Crescent City.
A recent Wall Street Journal analysis reported: “U.S. consumers who signed up with retail energy companies that emerged from deregulation paid $19.2 billion more than they would have if they’d stuck with incumbent utilities from 2010 through 2019.” Worse, shady retail competition suppliers often target the least sophisticated customers like senior citizens, offering them misleading promises of cost savings that don’t materialize.
As for reliability, Ida knocked down more than 30,000 utility poles. In response, Entergy helped organize 27,000 restoration workers from 41 states, to come to Louisiana and fix our grid. If we take away grid ownership from Entergy, who will save us if there is a next time?
Consider neighboring Texas; when winter storm Uri slammed them, their deregulated electric grid took weeks to fix, costing over 100 lives. Many Texans paid electric bills in the thousands of dollars for just a few days of energy. So why would New Orleans want to import a model that is more expensive and less reliable?
While Entergy New Orleans isn’t perfect, and we need local elected officials to hold them accountable, we should also be grateful the utility rose to the challenge of Ida and restored power to most New Orleanians within a week or so. As a juxtaposition of public services, consider our unfortunate situation with trash being uncollected for weeks.
executive director, Power for Tomorrow