Entergy working to modernize electricity grid

By HALEY FISACKERLY,

In a few weeks, Mississippians will elect new state leaders. While top statewide contests garner the most attention, those are not the only elected offices that affect Mississippians.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission plays a vital role in regulating utilities and ensuring they provide reliable, affordable service to customers today and far into the future. The commission must make sure utilities are prepared and able to change with the ever-evolving needs of their customers.

Current commissioners — Chairman Brandon Presley, northern district; Cecil Brown, central district and Sam Britton, southern district — have played a crucial role in helping shape Entergy Mississippi as we work to modernize the grid and build the utility of the future for our 450,000 customers.

As we move to the year 2020, Entergy envisions a smarter energy future — one the commission has largely supported and encouraged. It includes:

Power Plant for Less –  On October 1, the MPSC approved Entergy's purchase of the Choctaw Power Plant in French Camp. We are buying this natural gas plant for $314 million. That is about one-third of the cost of building a similar plant from scratch. Many of our plants are more than 50 years old and several older plants have already been retired. The Choctaw facility will replace some of the older plants, and it will do so more cheaply and efficiently.

$500 Savings Per Customer – That same day, we announced that our customers have saved $207 million since we joined MISO, a regional transmission organization, under the MPSC’s oversight five years ago. That’s an average of $500 per customer in savings.

Sun Power in Sunflower – Before year’s end, the commission will likely decide on a $138.4-million solar project. If approved, the 100-megawatt facility will be the largest utility-owned solar farm in the state and add to the diversity of our generation portfolio. Located in Sunflower County, it will produce enough clean energy to power more than 16,000 homes.

Advanced Meters – In early 2019, we began installing advanced meters. These meters are the foundation for the grid of the future. They will give customers improved outage restoration, money-saving tools and better customer service, while employing the latest industry-standard data protection and security safeguards. The multi-year project, approved by the commission, should be complete in 2021.

New Jobs and Low Rates – In January, we announced an expansion of our nuclear workforce that is creating hundreds of new high-tech, high-paying jobs by the end of this year. This is happening at both the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Port Gibson and at Entergy’s nationwide nuclear headquarters in Jackson. It is not only part of our efforts to improve Grand Gulf’s performance for the future, but another milestone toward making Mississippi a hub for the energy industry and the investments that go with it.

In the last four years, following commission review and approval, we have spent more than $1.6 billion to strengthen and modernize our electric grid. And we did this while keeping rates affordable. In fact, we recently reached the 10th consecutive year of sustained low rates. From 2008 to 2018, our residential rates stayed well below the state and U.S. average. Currently, our average residential rates are about 24 percent below the U.S. average. This frees up money customers can spend in their communities and gives our state a big advantage in recruiting industry, helping create jobs.

So, if you get the opportunity, thank your MPSC and the staff for the work they do to ensure reliable, affordable electric service today and for years to come. And please remember how important these positions are for the economic health of your family, your community and your state.

Haley Fisackerly is president and CEO of Entergy Mississippi, LLC.

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