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Entergy poll finds strong support for its New Orleans East power plant

The Advocate

Feb. 19--Nearly two-thirds of Entergy customers agree with the City Council's approval last year of a $210 million power plant in New Orleans East, according to a recent poll commissioned by the utility.

Customers were asked the week of Feb. 4 if they supported the council's decision to replace "a 60-year old plant with modern technology," a reference to the older steam-electric power units Entergy took offline in 2016 to make way for the new plant.

A majority of customers also agreed that Entergy should "invest in alternative power sources" such as solar farms, as well as in "local reliable gas generation."

Dr. Silas Lee & Associates conducted the survey on Entergy's behalf as the council debated whether a scheme to pay actors to endorse the plant so tainted the approval that the council should cancel it.

Entergy told the council around that same time that it has spent at least $96 million on the plant since last year. The council's advisers later said customers would still be on the hook for paying that amount even if the council killed the project.

The full council is expected to make a final decision on the plant on Thursday.

Lee's survey asked about 600 Entergy customers if they agreed with the council's approval in March of a more modern power source. About 63 percent said they did.

A separate set of results Lee provided on that question found that less than half of customers "strongly agreed" with that idea and less than a quarter "somewhat agreed," a total of 69 percent.

The survey also asked customers whether Entergy should pursue alternative power sources such as solar farms, along with local gas generation. About 56 percent said they "strongly agree", while 28 percent said they "somewhat agree", a total of 84 percent.

In addition to the power plant, Entergy has committed to including up to 100 megawatts of solar power in its portfolio.

Another notable question was whether Entergy should "restore power faster after a major weather event such as a storm" by developing a "local power source, rather than rely(ing) on power imported from outside the city." About 59 percent of those surveyed said they strongly agree with that idea, while a fifth said they somewhat agree, for a total of 80 percent.

About 57 percent of customers surveyed were African-American, while a third were white and a tenth identified as another race, a racial makeup similar to that of the city's voting population. About 62 percent were women and 38 percent were men, which is atypical of the registered voting population.

The margin of error was 3 percent, Lee said.

The council asked Entergy four years ago to explore building another power source to replace generation lost when its Michoud units went dark, but a swell of opposition and a paid actors scandal since then has complicated that tack.

Entergy has said the plant will provide a local source of power that can jumpstart a significant portion of its grid should power go dark after a storm. Critics, however, say the utility should instead invest in greener power solutions that are better for residents and the environment.


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