Soaring Entergy bills may soon be on the downswing, supervisor says

Published 12:00 am Friday, August 12, 2022

LAPLACE — Soaring energy bills that have sapped the family budget may soon be on the downswing.

Speaking before the St. John the Baptist Parish Council this past Tuesday night in LaPlace, Mark Johnson, a supervisor with Entergy, said the meteoric rise in natural gas coupled with record heat in May and June fueled electrical bills that have left many pleading for assistance. But with a recent trend in declining prices, although not major, should offer some relief to the pocketbook.

“Keep in mind May was the second highest on record and June was the hottest June (temperature wise) ever recorded,” Johnson told council members. “With that in mind we use a lot more energy.

“Record temperatures and record cost on fuel; put those together and that is how we arrived at this point.”

Johnson explained four main drivers affect monthly electric bills, including summer heat, natural gas prices, storm charges and cost of electricity. He said electricity costs have seen only a slight increase but fuel and storm costs have dramatically risen.

Using a chart, he explained how fuel costs have risen 250% since 2022. He broke down one customer’s bill from the past three years showing in July 2020 the fuel cost was $18. A year later it had risen to $32.97 but this past July the bill showed a fuel cost of $62.97.

Johnson said the cost reflects the price Entergy buys fuel for at a particular time. He added that in July those fuel costs accounted for 40% of one customer’s bill, exceedingly higher than normal.

“Fuel cost is almost as much as the light bill itself,” he said. “The amount of electricity has not gone up that much. The cost is being able to get the fuel. It’s consistent to what is happening at gas stations.”

Storm costs, which is the expense associated with Entergy rebuilding infrastructure following devastating hurricanes, have also increased. He explained that Energy, through an agreement with the Public Service Commission, is unable to get insurance to cover storm repairs.

“We do not get any federal money, no insurance company insures us,” he said, adding that in 2022 the storm cost accounted for 52% of one customer’s bill.

The costs attributed to hurricanes Laura and Harvey the past two years were recently tacked on to monthly bills but Johnson added the tallies from hurricanes Gustav and Ike will be dropping off in February.

Johnson recommended several cost-free measures to reduce bills, including setting the thermostat at 78 degrees, which will regulate the amount of energy the air condition uses.

“Not everybody will agree with that,” Johnson said. “That’s a personal choice every individual needs to make.”

Room fans will also help, and closing the vents in rooms that are not in use will also make a difference.

Entergy also offers three payment options for those struggling with their bills. One is “levelized” billing, also known as average billing, where a customer pays a monthly amount based on a snapshot of the past 12 months.

The second is a payment extension, where a customer can extend out the due date if necessary. Also, part of that option is degerming a date during the month to pay the bill that will coincide when a customer gets paid.

A third option is deferring one’s bill for up to four months.

He said agencies are available to help customers with their bills, including one recently announced by United Way.

Upon questioning by Councilman Warren Torres, Johnson said shutdowns at Entergy’s Waterford and Grand Gulf nuclear energy plants have not forced the company to buy additional natural gas.

Councilwoman Tonia Schnyder noted that the New Orleans City Council placed a moratorium on Entergy cutting off customers power for several months, until costs stabilize. She asked if there was such a plan in place in St. John Parish.

Johnson said Entergy New Orleans is controlled by the city and said he has not heard of a moratorium in the parish.

For more information on how to work with Entergy to pay delinquent bills, he urged customers to visit myentergy.com or call 1-800-Entergy.