Entergy Louisiana: Storm restoration will cost up to $4.1B

Hurricane Ida

Downed power lines slump over a road in the aftermath of Hurricane Ida, Friday, Sept. 3, 2021, in Reserve, La. Power out, high voltage lines on the ground, maybe weeks until electricity is restored in some places _ it’s a distressingly familiar situation for Entergy Corp., Louisiana’s largest electrical utility. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) — Entergy Louisiana told utility regulators Wednesday that it owes up to $4.4 billion for getting the lights back on after a string of storms and needed a $1 billion loan to meet those costs in the short-term.

The Advocate reports the utility company — which provides electricity to about half Louisiana’s power customers — eventually may boost customer charges anywhere from $11 to $15 per month to pay the debt over a span of up to 15 years.

Entergy serviced most of the 1 million homes and businesses that lost power when Hurricane Ida struck Louisiana on Aug. 29 as a Category 4 hurricane. But the company’s storm restoration fund is tapped out, and the bills are arriving for the nearly 30,000 linemen and workers brought into Louisiana from around the country to restore power.

The five-member Public Service Commission agreed to the loan, as long as the costs aren’t folded into what customers ultimately will have to pay for storm recovery.

“Those invoices continue to come in. This will help to pay for that and that will put us in a better financial position,” Phillip R. May, Entergy Louisiana president and CEO, told the commission.

May said the company had $2 billion in damage from multiple hurricanes in 2020 and Ida added another $2 billion to $2.4 billion on top of that. Entergy Louisiana doesn’t take in $4.4 billion in revenues for an entire year, according to The Advocate.

The cost of getting the lights back on after a storm are paid by a utility’s customers. But the analysis of what charges are prudent take time, so the official order that will add the amount onto monthly bills is still a year or two away.

Once the Public Service Commission approves the debt figure, Entergy will add a monthly surcharge to customer bills to pay off that borrowing debt.

Depending on the structure of the debt payments, customers could see monthly bills about $11 to $15 per month for as long as 15 years, according to Mark D. Kleehammer, Entergy’s vice president for regulatory affairs.

Public Service Commissioner Foster Campbell, a Democrat from Bossier Parish, praised Entergy in getting power back on more quickly after Ida. But he added: “You’re fixing to tattoo them $15 a month for 15 years. That’s a lot of money.”

The amount of the debt could be lowered if the federal government provides some disaster recovery aid to help cover the power restoration costs, as requested by Gov. John Bel Edwards.

May noted that Congress doesn’t often give money to privately owned companies. He and Kleehammer recently met with the state’s congressional delegation and other lawmakers asking them to overcome their reluctance, saying the aid would help customers, not the company.

“Given the number of low- and moderate-income customers we have, this relief is extremely important,” May said.

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