The $14.5 flood protection system installed after Katrina succeeded in keeping New Orleans from flooding but massive power outages still put residents in danger. Two thousand miles of power lines went down leaving four hospitals without power. Why wasn't a more resilient power grid built in the 16 years between Katrina and Ida?
Dating back to 2016, the Alliance for Affordable Energy, a non-profit organization that works to ensure equitable, affordable, and environmentally responsible energy policy, had been advocating to build microgrids to provide resiliency to New Orleans. Locally produced and controlled power could continue to provide power to community centers and hospitals in the event of extreme weather events. Over objections from residents, community groups and city leaders, Entergy, the power company serving New Orleans, built a new 128-megawatt, $210 million natural gas-fueled power plant. Entergy argued that the plant would provide power if the long-distance transmission lines were down. However, power plants are designed to shut down automatically in the event of widespread damage to the grid. Providing power to the region is important, but providing power to homes and businesses is the ultimate goal and power plants don't achieve that.
Entergy touted that they deployed 165 commercial-scale generators to power critical community infrastructure such as medical facilities, gas stations, grocery stores, municipal water systems in advance of their power being restored, but that would not have been necessary had the $210 million been spent to build microgrids instead of the power plant as the community had requested.
Read full article by in Canary Media here.