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Utility regulators to investigate blackouts, prolonged power outages due to ice

3 months 4 weeks 5 hours ago Thursday, February 18 2021 Feb 18, 2021 February 18, 2021 9:24 AM February 18, 2021 in News
Source: WBRZ

BATON ROUGE – Entergy said Wednesday, it will make customer communication a priority after fallout from an abrupt, rolling blackout across its power grid Tuesday night.

The blackouts came with virtually no notice to customers between 7 and midnight Tuesday.  The mayor of Baton Rouge said she was not notified and the governor’s office said Gov. John Bel Edwards spoke with Entergy executives after the blackouts started.

A Public Service Commissioner said not enough advance notice was given to the PSC, either. 

In an interview with WBRZ and 2 On Your Side Wednesday, an Entergy honcho said the utility company realized customers could have been warned.

“We are working to make sure [warning customers] doesn't get overlooked and make sure that we are constantly communicating with our customers,” Entergy Vice President of Distribution Operations, John Hawkins, Jr., said.

Hawkins warned, additional rolling blackouts could occur again if demand exceeds supply.

“There is a possibility that it could happen again… you're just trying to balance the supply and the load.  Right now, everything is in balance,” he told WBRZ in an interview just after lunch Wednesday.

Blackouts come with a shortly-timed notification from the group that handles electricity sold to Entergy.

“You get that phone call, you have 30-minutes to execute,” he said.

Though, Hawkins reiterated that warnings are being addressed for customers: “That's one thing we are working to shore up."

The utility company did make adjustments: Entergy made phone calls and sent messages when it warned of possible outages occurring again Wednesday evening.  

Public Service Commission Investigation 

The PSC will investigate the blackouts and the lengthy outages related to the ice storm.

There was “no advance notice to the [Louisiana Public Service Commission] or its utilities” of the need for blackouts in the Baton Rouge and New Orleans areas, Commissioner Dr. Craig Greene said in a statement to WBRZ Wednesday. 

“...It should be noticed that rolling blackouts are not being required in southeast Louisiana,” he added.

Greene said there will be an investigation into the power-supplying body that Entergy said forced it to initiate blackouts but the scope of the inquiry would not stop there.  Green said “investigations are being opened into… Louisiana utilities’ response throughout this storm.” 

Initial reports could be done in a week, he said.

Louisiana HVACs pull lots of power 

Electric heaters pull more power than air conditioners, Entergy said, and in usually colder climates, buildings are warmed with heaters fueled by gas or oil and not electricity.  Electrical heaters, more common than fuel heaters in Louisiana, was part of the reason the grid was pushed beyond its limit. 

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Follow the publisher of this post on Twitter: @treyschmaltz

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