Entergy President Philip May deserves credit for ensuring customers do not go without electricity while people are told to stay home due to COVID-19. The freeze on disconnecting utility services will end once Louisiana reaches Phase 2 of re-opening, a date to be determined. The real test of his leadership will be measured by how equitable the utility’s plan is for working with customers who are behind on their bills. It will equally be measured by how quickly the utility transitions to clean energy in order to reduce air pollution following a respiratory pandemic.
Secure communities are those where people are not worried about the power going out when a late payment is due following this unprecedented hardship. If we are truly all in this together, Entergy’s shareholders will understand that electric payment debt may need to be written down or a new payment system based on what people can afford is needed. Shareholder value is not more important than our communities May claims to represent.
Entergy Louisiana owns one of the dirtiest coal plants in Louisiana, R.S. Nelson near Lake Charles, and owns a part of the state’s largest coal plant, Big Cajun II near Baton Rouge. May should lead his utility to eliminate toxic air pollution from its coal fleet and use his power as Entergy’s president to invest in clean, cheap, and safe renewable energy and energy efficiency. These investments bring shareholder value while delivering clean air to breathe for people closest to the utility’s coal plants.
Entergy needs to create an equitable payment plan for its customers trying to recover physically, emotionally and financially from the pandemic. The utility must also accelerate efforts to transition its energy from old dirty coal plants polluting the air we breathe to clean and affordable renewable energy. May’s decisions in the coming months will determine if Entergy is truly committed to healthy and secure communities in Louisiana.