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Forest Bradley-Wright

In its rushed bid to obtain City Council approval to build an expensive, technologically obsolete power plant for almost $250 million — more than $2,000 per residential household — Entergy has again resorted to misleading the council and the public.

In an op-ed published in this newspaper, Entergy CEO Charles Rice pointed to a series of weather events as reasons for building a new power plant. Rice’s arguments are a smoke screen to distract the council from the real challenges we face, and better choices for solving them.

Our primary need is to fix the deteriorating transmission and distribution system that caused more than 2,000 power outages in New Orleans last year. That’s right, issues with our transmission and distribution problems, not lack of power, caused 100 percent of the outages we experienced. Entergy’s proposed plant would not have prevented any of them.

Entergy has failed to provide essential analysis about needed transmission infrastructure upgrades. They failed to analyze combinations of clean energy resources that would meet the city’s needs and avoid a gas-fired power plant altogether. Entergy is pushing for a final decision before the council first completes its study into cheaper methods for eliminating energy waste, and before completion of their investigation into the more than 2,000 power outages New Orleans experiences each year.

We are all being duped.

Rice would have us and the council believe we face an either/or proposition: Either they build the plant or we face power outages. But modern energy solutions are being adopted across the country and New Orleans has an opportunity to leverage them with a three-part strategy:

First, upgrade and modernize our transmission system. Doing this would cost one-fourth the price of Entergy’s proposed power plant and completely solve their primary concern over access to reliable power.

Second, invest in energy efficiency to reduce the expensive energy that is simply being wasted. The city’s own policy already calls for lowering kilowatt-hour usage by 2 percent a year. Energy efficiency costs less and creates many more jobs than a gas plant. It increases the personal comfort of your home, lowers your energy bills, and you get to keep your hard-earned money in your own pocket instead of Entergy taking it for their boondoggle power plant.

Third, modernize our distribution system to solve the source of nearly every power outage we actually experience each year. Enough with the rotting power poles, sagging wires and rusted transformers. It’s time we began using modern grid technology, battery power and small-scale clean energy generation where it’s needed most across the city — in neighborhoods near hospitals, schools, police and fire stations. That will make distribution of energy more efficient and reliable for disaster situations. It’s the approach that New York adopted after Hurricane Sandy and it works.

Entergy is asking the council to place all of the risk and every dollar of cost on customers. According to their own proposal, the plant would sit idle 85 to 99 percent of the year. Building the plant would cost more than purchasing power in the market, more than energy efficiency, and more than the cost of the transmission upgrades we need.

If Entergy gets its way, each of us will pay for their power plant on our energy bills every month for the next 30 years. And while all the risk is piled on customers, Entergy’s profits of over $20 million on this power plant are practically guaranteed. Tails they win, heads we lose. No wonder Entergy is pressuring the council for a rushed decision. Fortunately, we have better, smarter options.

Forest Bradley-Wright is senior policy director of the Alliance for Affordable Energy.