Entergy plans $4.2B upgrade

Published 12:00 am Monday, December 6, 1999

AP and staff reports

Entergy Corp., which caught public and regulatory heat for cutting electricity to over a half-million customers during rolling outages last summer, plans to spend $4.2 billion over five years to upgrade its power system.

The company also said Monday that it will spend $3.9 billion on its wholesale power operations and has earmarked $1.7 billion to purchase and operate at least five nuclear generating plants over the next five years.

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Forest Persons, Entergy customer service representative in Natchez, said the capital improvements would mean more money for the Natchez Steam Plant and could also generate more jobs for Natchez. Persons said he would have further information on the plan later this week.

The spending plan affects the company’s three major areas: its regulated retail power sales to residences and businesses, its growing business of selling electricity on the open, unregulated market, and expanding holdings in nuclear power generation.

”This capital investment plan provides for continued investment in our utility operations for service improvements, allocates necessary capital to transition our systems and move us to a more competitive environment, and funds our growth businesses,” said J. Wayne Leonard, Entergy’s chief executive officer.

The retail system improvement plan comes after extreme heat in the South forced Entergy to pull the plug last summer on about 550,000 customers in Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and Arkansas during brief, rolling outages. Customers also have complained of storm-related failures. Natchez was briefly affected by the rolling power outages this summer.

Persons said the improvement plan is not related to fears about Y2K. In announcing a corporate reorganization last year, Entergy conceded that it had maintenance problems with its basic distribution system. The company said the $4.2 billion will be used on distribution and transmission projects, as well as upgrading telephone service centers, customer service offices and information systems.