October 25, 2021

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Ida Is Proof That Louisiana Needs To Embrace Building Microgrids

Ida Is Proof That Louisiana Needs To Embrace Building Microgrids

Last week, Hurricane Ida knocked out all 8 transmission lines into New Orleans. In Baton Rouge, it took out our communications along with our electricity — with the exception of those who had Verizon. Although most of Baton Rouge is getting back online, New Orleans as well as smaller towns and cities still don’t have power.

Someone shared an article by Canary Media with me, and after reading it, I fully agree. We need microgrids here in Louisiana, yet our leaders don’t seem to want them. Advocates have been trying for years to make our local grid resilient, but oddly, our leaders don’t seem to want that. Why?

This isn’t the first time I’ve seen governments (local, state, etc.) purposely refuse to do things that benefit everyone. It’s like they want us to have messed up grids so that we suffer during disasters. The article cited another article by Canary Media that showed the outcome following local authorities’ repeated dismissals of proposals to invest in decentralized and resilient grid upgrades.

In 2016, a New Orleans-based nonprofit, Alliance for Affordable Energy, had a great alternative to Entergy New Orleans’ plan to build a new natural-gas-fired power plant. That idea was to build clean electricity resilience from the ground up — an integrated resilience plan that challenged Entergy New Orleans to try to find an alternative to a central power plant. The plant would be subject to known vulnerabilities — such as the impact of a category 4 hurricane.

The Alliance for Affordable Energy called for pursuing distributed microgrids. The article aptly described these as self-powered islands of solar power, batteries, and backup generation that could provide electricity during grid outages. If only we had these during Ida. Executive director Logan Atkinson Burke shared how this was frustrating. “Had we taken the time and initiative to plan for distributed generation, distributed solar-plus-storage, and more energy efficiency, people would be more prepared to shelter safely and comfortably,” Burke said. “We’ve been advocating for microgrids to be built within the city for years for precisely this reason.”

Here’s Why Entergy Doesn’t Want Distributed Energy

The problem is Entergy’s long-standing opposition to distributed energy. The utility has consistently opposed including local renewable energy and energy storage in its own plans. Utilities also get an incentive when they convince regulators to approve large power plants instead of enabling customer-sited distributed energy such as rooftop solar. The article pointed out that vertically integrated utilities such as Entergy are paid a guaranteed rate of return on capital investments, including power plants. Self-supplied customer energy reduces the revenue and profits Entergy and other utilities earn from selling electricity.

It’s all about money, profits, and greed. They make more money from weakening our defenses against disasters such as Ida than they would from strengthening them. And we, the people, end up paying the price. And our government readily caters to this greed. Not just Louisiana’s — this trend is seen elsewhere as well.

Car dealerships in Connecticut, for example, lobby legislatures to prevent Tesla and Rivian from coming to their state and opening a sales center. This hurts the economy, but they do it anyway. It’s all about greed, money, and profits.