Entergy New Orleans shut off 81 megawatts worth of power when only 26 megawatts were required during southern Louisiana’s unusual cold snap last week, John Hawkins, vice president of distribution operations for Entergy Louisiana, revealed to the City Council on Tuesday.
Council members were incensed to find out that many more thousands of people were without power than was necessary and are demanding an investigation.
“We left people in the cold then that didn't need to be left in the cold,” Councilwoman Helena Moreno said, exasperated.
“Guys, you’re killing me here,” she said. “Communication has been a nightmare, people still don’t understand why you shut off certain neighborhoods, and now we’re finding out that you didn’t even need to shut off certain neighborhoods.”
Entergy maps revealed that the outages largely affected low-income and Black neighborhoods.
Demand soared as temperatures dropped last week, triggering the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO,) which coordinates regional utilities, to mandate rolling outages to relieve stress on the grid.
At one point, tens of thousands of Entergy customers were in the dark in Louisiana. A portion of the Sewerage and Water Board’s system was also cut, but it was able to switch to generators, avoiding a boil water advisory.
Entergy representatives were grilled by a joint meeting of City Council’s utilities and public works subcommittees Tuesday. The council regulates Entergy New Orleans.
Moreno told Entergy representatives they need to improve public communication and ordered an investigation into why so much more power than necessary was shut down.
Entergy New Orleans CEO David Ellis could not provide an explanation for the discrepancy, saying that he was not aware of it until this meeting.
Councilwoman Cyndi Nguyen said she received calls from a retirement community in her district in New Orleans East, Peace Lake Towers. More than 160 elderly residents were left in a dangerous situation as they faced a freezing cold night, she said.
“It is extremely disturbing,” said Nguyen. “Maybe those senior citizens did not have to suffer that night.”
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