Entergy La. CEO: ‘We are aware of what customers are struggling with and are trying to help’
Lake Charles, LA (KPLC) - We’re continuing to follow up on those high electric bills that have burdened customers across the state and met one on one with Entergy Louisiana’s CEO and asked what the company is doing, if anything, to offset customer’s cost.
“We realize that bills have been rising,” Entergy Louisiana CEO Phillip May said. “There’s a couple reasons for that. First and foremost, we’ve seen a sharp rise in natural gas and that is driving up the price of electricity not only for Entergy Louisiana, but really across the entire nation.”
7News asked May what do customers do if they can’t pay?
“As we’re working through this heat wave and these high bills, we just want folks to know that you should contact us,” May said. “If you’re having trouble paying your bill, contact us. We can work out payment plans and so forth. As long as you reach out to us and work with us on a payment plan, we will not disconnect you.”
May tells 7News the company came up with $10 million in shareholder donations that will be used to help customers with bill payment services. That cost breaks down to roughly 9 dollar per Entergy customer, however not every customer qualifies for assistance.
“We’re working on other programs to expand that qualification so more people can get help, but also the waiver of late fees is also income qualifying,” May said. “We are aware of what customers are struggling with and are trying to help.”
Entergy is also waiving credit card fees for bill payments.
7News asked May about the possibility of asking stock holders to reduce their dividends to help customers even more. He said that would put the companies borrowing power at risk.
“I think the important thing to keep in mind is Entergy does pay dividends to its stockholders,” May said. “This is a lot like if you’re going to go out and borrowing money, you don’t want to stop paying your credit card fees because its likely to harm your ability to borrow money. So, no, Entergy has an obligation to the people who have invested in this utility and we’ll need to continue to pay those dividends because it’s an indication that we’re a good credit risk and can borrow money when we need to.”
The electric company has recently tacked on a hurricane fee for customers. Many 7News viewers were asking why that fee isn’t a flat rate, so we asked May.
“The hurricane fee is for about 1,000 kilowatt-hours, that’s kind of a typical customer, that’s about $9.50. If you use twice that, obviously that’s not going to be not $9.50, but about $19 -- it’s ratable. We have about 54% of our sales that is industrial customers, so what that means is those larger customers are paying big chunks of that bill. So, if you though you wanted a flat rate, this approach really limits how much cost go to the smaller customers,” May said.
What would happen if energy providers entered in market competition in Louisiana? Market competition in Louisiana wouldn’t be the best option according to May as he explained the rates are higher in Texas, where there’s energy market competition, and said the reliability of the service is less.
“If you’re wondering what might competition look like, you need look no further than Texas. Right now, folks are struggling with a rate that’s about 15 cents. If you want to see the rate in Texas, those rates are averaging probably 18 cents or more right now. In order to get a low rate, you have to pre-pay your bill. In order to have some of those lower rates you have to have good credit risk and you have to commit long term with those plans and sometimes it’s as long as 36 months.”
May also said customers can raise their thermostat higher to help lower their bill and he refers to the Entergy website for more tips for consumer to cut down on cost.
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