Facing strong opposition from some community groups, Entergy New Orleans is temporarily putting the brakes on its plans to build a $216 million power plant in New Orleans East.

The company said Saturday that it will ask the City Council to delay consideration of the proposal by at least two weeks so that Entergy executives can decide if the new plant is necessary in light of new projections for power usage over coming years.

The council regulates Entergy with help from a team of legal and technical advisers.

“The company’s efforts to predict load cannot remain stagnant, and based on a recently updated load analysis, the company’s demand has decreased,” Entergy said in a statement.

Given the projected decrease of about 3.5 percent over the next 20 years, Entergy said, “the company did the appropriate thing, which was to pause the council proceeding to determine what implications, if any, this might have on its proposal to construct the New Orleans Power Station.”

The council had been due to consider whether to approve the new plant in April.

Entergy has spent months defending its proposal to build a 226-megawatt combustion turbine plant at the site of its old Michoud power plant, as well as the previous projections for power usage underlying that proposal. Those projections, showing an increase in power usage over the next 20 years, were decried by critics as inaccurate.

The Alliance for Affordable Energy, the Deep South Center for Environmental Justice and several parishioners of Mary Queen of Vietnam Church in New Orleans East have been among the most prominent critics.

They have argued that the money Entergy planned to spend on the plant would be better spent on improved energy efficiency programs, which decrease the amount of power New Orleans customers use, and on alternative power sources.

Entergy has claimed that the wind and solar power alternatives that critics called on it to consider are unreliable. Still, to show its commitment to solar energy, the company last year asked developers to submit plans for drawing up to 100 megawatts from rooftop solar panels.

Some critics dismissed that move as an attempt to help get the new power plant pushed through.

Logan Atkinson Burke of the Alliance for Affordable Energy praised Entergy’s change of heart, saying that the company’s updated figures are in line with data that show a decline in energy demand across the country.

“The alliance is glad to see Entergy take a pause to reconsider their plans to build this plant,” she said. “New Orleans’ energy needs are declining, even as our economy and population are growing. This pause in the process means the council has an opportunity to consider cleaner and viable alternatives like energy efficiency to improve our housing and resilience.”

She said her group was “relieved to see the utility acknowledging the facts.”

Critics also have charged that the proposed plant could produce harmful emissions and worsen nearby neighborhoods’ subsidence problems. 

Entergy, however, has said the new plant would emit less pollution and use far less groundwater than did its predecessor, meaning there would be less risk of subsidence. It said the plant was needed to replace power the city lost when the Michoud units were decommissioned in June.

"It will be the only source of reliable power generation located in Orleans Parish," Entergy President Charles Rice said recently, and without it, the price of electricity to New Orleanians could go up.

Follow Jessica Williams on Twitter, @jwilliamsNOLA​.