Why Louisiana’s power grid failed at Hurricane Aida

Just a few weeks before Hurricane Aida powers most of Louisiana and leaves its inhabitants exposed Extremely hot and humidThe CEO of Entergy, the state’s largest utility company, told Wall Street that it had upgraded its power lines and equipment to withstand the storm.

“Increasing the elasticity of the system is a continuous focus,” executive Leo Pellegrino told financial analysts at a conference call on August 4, and Entertainment “brought a strong wind” to Tower and Paul. We are replacing it with a compatible device. ” Load and flood levels. “

Mr. Denault’s remarks will soon be rigorously tested. On the last Sunday of August, Hurricane Ida landed in Louisiana, devastating the entertainment lines, towers, and utility poles. Many of these were built decades ago to withstand much weaker hurricanes. The company hadn’t upgraded much of its equipment or replaced it with more modern gear designed to withstand the 150 mph wind that Aida brought to the state.

Hurricanes like Ida have been a challenge for decades-old power systems with a mix of old and new equipment. However, some energy experts said Entergy was clearly not prepared for a Category 4 storm, despite executives saying efforts to strengthen the network.

The storm damaged the eight high-voltage power lines that power New Orleans and the towers of numerous companies throughout the state. Hundreds of thousands of homes and businesses have lost power for days. According to Entergy, Ida damaged or destroyed 31,000 utility poles carrying low-voltage distribution lines nearby, nearly twice as much as Hurricane Katrina.

Parliamentarians and regulators need utilities to ensure affordable, safe and reliable services. Post-Ida grid failures are the latest indication of how utilities are struggling to meet these obligations as climate change increases in frequency and severity of extreme weather events. In California, utilities have been forced to cut off power to tens of thousands of customers in recent years to prevent equipment from causing wildfires and reduce energy demand during heat waves. In February, most grids in Texas broke down during a winter storm, leaving millions of people losing power and heat for days.

While Entertainment is upgrading its grid to withstand wind speeds in excess of 140 mph, many transmission facilities in and around New Orleans are built to withstand gusts of about 110 mph. Category 2 stormMcCullough Research, a consulting firm based in Portland, Oregon, provides advice to utilities and government agencies, according to regulatory filings and analysis of other company records.

Enterji said the analysis was inaccurate, but did not mention the number of transmission structures built to withstand winds at 150 mph. According to the company, towers met the safety standards set at the time of installation, but older standards often assumed wind speeds well below 150 mph.

The Association of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, a group of experts whose guidelines are widely adhered to by utilities and other industries, has endured a storm and system failures for utilities operating in areas vulnerable to hurricanes. We recommend that you install equipment that can return service quickly in case. For example, in the coastal areas of Louisiana, large transmission facilities need to be designed to withstand winds of 150 mph.

“If a customer has a power outage for three to four weeks today, that would be unacceptable,” said Nelson Binger, chairman of the National Electrical Safety Code, showing standards developed by a group of engineers for different industries. increase.

Entergy, which serves 3 million customers in Louisiana and three other states, made a decision before Ida hit, why regulators, lawmakers, and residents are so many. It’s being scrutinized as it tries to figure out if it’s still losing electricity. The New Orleans City Council, which oversees entertainment activities in the city, is scheduled for a hearing on Wednesday.

The central question is whether Entergy ran fast enough to upgrade the device. Rising hurricane raging.. According to the company, it acted swiftly. The critics claim that it was a drag.

Residents also said they might wonder if state regulators and city officials have done enough to require entertainment to upgrade their equipment more quickly. The company has to seek approval for new investments and there is an increase in the electricity bill paid to them. Utility regulators can require companies to spend more or aim for specific upgrades. Some energy experts have also proposed that regulators consider requiring utilities to lay power lines underground. This is an expensive approach with its own problems.

The first review focuses on why Entergy took two days Reopening $ 210 Million Natural Gas Thermal Power Plant The company opened in New Orleans last year and Powering during periods of high demand, Including after a storm. But energy experts say they’re more worried about many of the company’s lines going down — and down for the second year in a row.

Last year, a Category 4 storm, Hurricane Laura, destroyed and damaged hundreds of entertainment towers and utility poles in southwestern Louisiana. In April, Entergy told the Louisiana Public Services Commission, which regulates operations outside New Orleans, that it had strengthened its facilities, including installing strong utility poles in coastal areas that are particularly vulnerable to strong winds.

Michelle P. Bourg, who is responsible for transmitting Entertainment’s Louisiana business, said that it would cost too much to make the entire network resilient, so Entertainment “cost-effectively riskes reliability. He told regulators that he pursued a “target program to reduce costs.”

In a statement, Entertainment noted that Aida destroyed or damaged 508 transmission structures, compared to 1,909 for Laura and 1,003 for Katrina, saying that transmission spending was working. Stated. The company said its annual investment in power transmission in Louisiana and New Orleans has increased over the past eight years, totaling $ 926 million in 2020, when it spent a lot of money on repairs after Laura. I added. The company spent $ 471 million on transmissions in 2019.

“The facts of this storm confirm that we have made significant advances in elasticity since the storm that struck the system in the early 2000s, both in general and especially in terms of transmission,” Entergy spokesman said. Man, Jerry Nappi, said.

The company refused to provide the age range of damaged or destroyed transmission structures and the age range of damaged utility poles and equipment. Nappi admitted that the utility poles were extensively destroyed and were not built to withstand winds of 130-150 mph.

“As more and more powerful storms hit frequently, significant additional investment will be required to alleviate difficulties and avoid long-term outages,” he said in an email. “We are pursuing the coveted federal support for the additional enhancements needed without compromising the affordability of electricity that our customers and communities depend on.”

As President Biden promotes the upgrade and expansion of the country’s electricity system to address climate change and strengthen facilities against disasters, a petition for further support from the company comes. Part of his plan includes spending tens of billions of dollars on power lines. Biden also wants to provide incentives for clean energy sources such as solar, wind and batteries. This is the kind of improvement that New Orleans community leaders have long sought, often backed by Entergy.

Susan Guidley, a former member of the New Orleans City Council, said she opposed the construction of a new natural gas plant located in a nearby lowland, consisting primarily of African-Americans and Vietnamese-Americans. Instead, she promoted power transmission and distribution system upgrades and more investment in solar and batteries. The council finally approved an entertaining plan for the plant over her objections.

“One of the things we discussed was that instead of building a peaking power plant, we needed to upgrade our transmission lines,” Guidry said.

In addition, she said she asked the company to replace the wooden sticks in her neighborhood with ones made of stronger materials.

Robert McCullough, principal of McCullough Research, said it’s hard to understand why Entergy didn’t upgrade towers and poles more quickly.

“In the face of climate change, wooden sticks no longer have the expected lifespan,” he said. “Given the recurring obstacles, it is cost effective to replace it with a more durable option that can withstand recurring Category 4 storms, including going to metal poles in many situations. prize.”

Some green energy activists argued that the city and state would not have suffered as widespread and long-term power outages as after Aida if Entertainment had invested more in power lines and distribution lines, solar panels and battery systems. ..

“Entertainment Louisiana needs to be held accountable for this,” said Logan Atkinson Burke, one of those activists, the Executive Secretary of the Alliance for Affordable Clean Energy.

Entertainment claims that natural gas plants are a much more affordable and reliable option for powering during times of higher demand than solar panels and batteries.

Biden’s Secretary of Energy Jennifer Granholm said Aida emphasized the need for a large investment in the power grid. This could include installing power lines underground to serve homes and businesses. Filling the wires protects them from the wind, but can make it difficult to access the lines during floods.

“Obviously, as New Orleans recovers, some areas really need to improve,” Granholm said in an interview this month.

Entertainment spokesman Nappi said distribution lines in some parts of New Orleans and elsewhere are already underground, but it would be expensive to fill them more. “Distribution assets can be made to withstand extreme winds by engineering or undergrounding, but they bring significant cost and confusion to customers and communities,” he said.

Why Louisiana’s power grid failed at Hurricane Aida

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