Understanding utility regulations is like playing chess. There are lots of parts and pieces – some players can control and others they cannot. Making the wrong move can lead to expensive consequences for consumers. Many New Orleanians have been perplexed by the ever-changing fuel adjustment charges and other unanticipated costs that appear on their monthly bill.
What’s a customer to do? After the demise of NOPSI, the City Council gave Entergy New Orleans the legal right to supply the city with reliable, affordable gas and electric power so that homes and businesses are relatively cool in the summer and warm in the winter. Entergy New Orleans is also a business that has a financial obligation to its investors to turn a profit.
A New Orleans City Council committee rejected a proposal to generate significant amounts of electricity from solar panels on the roofs of Tulane University dorms, saying in a Tuesday morning meeting that the city first needs a better overall system for regulating new, independent sources of energy. Current regulations allow two different levels of power generation from solar panels: 25 kilowatts from residential customers, and 300 kilowatts from commercial structures, said Matthew Fraser, legislative director for District A Councilmember Susan Guidry. If each room in Tulane’s dorms were to be classified as an independent residential unit for the purposes of solar power generation, that would far exceed the current limits, and a new designation would be needed. Under a concept known as net metering, independent generators of electrical power like Tulane can sell their excess electricity back to Entergy. Entergy has told the city that this process still incurs transmission costs to the utility, however, and if Tulane was generating its own energy, the new transmission costs could get passed on to customers around the city.