NEW ORLEANS: The utility company that serves New Orleans appears to have cut three times as much power as needed during emergency winter power outages, cutting power to around 26,000 families and businesses on Tuesday night Bold, company executives said Tuesday.
Entergy New Orleans officials told city council that emergency shutdowns ordered by a regional grid operator last week called on the utility to cut the city’s energy use by 26 megawatts. Instead, more than 80 megawatts of electricity have been cut, according to current estimates.
The outages lasted for over an hour.
This was an unwelcome revelation to members of the city council’s public services committee. Council members denounced the lack of advance information about the power outage, which left families unexpectedly shaking and businesses without electricity. Among those affected were restaurants filled to their pandemic capacity on the evening of Mardi Gras.
Cold weather and power outages added further misery to what was already a muted celebration of Mardi Gras in New Orleans. Concerns over the pandemic had prompted city officials to close bars and implement strict crowd controls in the French Quarter to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Other areas have been worse. Power outages have hit large sections of Louisiana and Texas, leaving millions of people without heat while destroying some public water systems. Nearly 80 deaths have been attributed to the weather.
I’m just sitting here, bubbling and baffled at the same time, said panel member Jay Banks.
The city council asked for information on why electricity had been cut with little or no warning to several neighborhoods and part of the city’s drinking water network. The power outages came on the night of February 16 as sub-freezing temperatures hit much of the south.
Entergy officials said the nonprofit that manages much of the southern power grid, the independent system operator of the Midcontinent, has ordered Entergy companies to cut 222 megawatts of electricity to customers to avoid a major regional power outage during the winter weather crisis.
But why Entergy New Orleans cut more than 80 megawatts when only 26 were needed was not yet clear, utility officials said.
Entergy New Orleans CEO David Ellis said the company will try to provide answers in 30 days.
We were trying to go through all of these details and understand exactly how it happened and prevent it from happening again, Ellis said.
Council President Helena Moreno has called for an independent investigation into the power outages in New Orleans.
The board regulates Entergy New Orleans. Entergy Louisiana, which serves other parts of the state, is regulated by the Louisiana Public Service Commission, which is scheduled to discuss electricity issues on Wednesday.
The enterprising companies also serve parts of Arkansas, Mississippi, and Southeast Texas.
The New Orleans water system was hit when power was cut to a facility that pumps potable water from the Mississippi River. John Hawkins of Entergy said the installation should not have been included in the DC outages and the issue would be resolved. Water network officials said they were able to run the pumps using power from the generator.
Company officials have vowed to review the system of continual power outages to avoid further such actions, and they said they would work to improve warning of continual power outages, noting that blackouts often have to be implemented quickly to avoid larger and longer failures.
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