The S&WB and Entergy Struck a $74 Million Deal. How Will it Impact NOLA Residents?

(Source: “Sewerage & Water Board” by Steve Snodgrass is licensed under CC BY 2.0)

Most times Entergy and the Sewerage and Water Board are in the news, it’s because they did something that was nefarious, unscrupulous, or that showcased their incompetence.

For once, we present to you something incredible that they did. 

Mayor LaToya Cantrell announced a $74 million deal that will make Entergy New Orleans the primary power provider for the Sewerage and Water Board’s drainage system. 

The plan will result in Entergy tying a new power substation into nearby elevated transmission lines, which Entergy asserted would be more reliable than the S&WB’s current century-old turbines that run half the city’s pumps. 

Two transmission lines would feed into the substation and the facility will include a pair of transformers each of which will handle the full power load needed to keep the drainage system running. 

The city’s current turbines are famous for breaking down and malfunctioning, leading to flooding and boil water advisories. As of right now, New Orleans finds itself in a treacherous position, with barely enough power to handle a major storm if everything goes right and nothing malfunctions. 

While two turbines are undergoing maintenance, the S&WB is currently relying on a portable diesel generator. City leaders have admitted this leaves the city vulnerable at the beginning of hurricane season, and a time of year famous for consistent, intense rainstorms. 

“Just like the air we breathe, the power is the essential element for the system,” explained City Councilmember Joe Giarrusso. “Without it, the pumps don’t work, the drinking water doesn’t work … This is an opportunity for the first time to have a primary power source that isn’t relying on turbines, most of which are over 100 years old.”

The best part? 

New Orleans residents should not see a rate increase on either of their utility bills as a result of the project, largely because its anticipated that it will actually save the S&WB, and in turn, residents, money. Cantrell said the agreement and plan “fulfills a critical promise” she made when she took office and will “bring reliable power to the Sewerage & Water Board without raising rates for Sewerage & Water Board customers.”

Entergy will contribute $34 million to build the substation which will be repaid by the S&WB over 15 years. The funds will come from the $5-$7 million in fuel-cost savings per year. The city of New Orleans will pay $20 million in bonds proceeds to install frequency changers for the project and the final $20 million will come from S&WB and state capital funds. 

Logan Burke, head of the Alliance for Affordable Energy, said the group was happy that ratepayers will not be on the hook for additional costs. The group also supports the project because it would significantly slash S&WB’s carbon emissions.

S&WB Executive Director Ghassan Korban said the substation plan will allow the utility to finally do away with the five noisy diesel generators that have been generating complaints from neighbors. 

Addressing criticism that Entergy’s systems famously are susceptible to power outages during storms, Seth Cureington, Entergy’s director of economic development, told the City Council’s Utility Committee that tying the substation directly to Entergy’s transmission system will make it more reliable since it won’t depend on street-level power. 

Councilmember Giarrusso, who leads the Utility Committee, labeled the substation “the single most important infrastructure project in the city of New Orleans” since it will affect all of the city’s residents. 

The project is expected to be up and running by mid-2023. “This project is certainly one of the biggest infrastructure accomplishments of this administration,” Mayor LaToya Cantrell commented

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