Entergy wants a shot at LUS

Photo by LeeAnn B. Stephan

New Orleans energy giant Entergy has chimed in its interest in making a bid to run LUS, issuing a statement hours before nascent energy player NextGEN Utility Systems is set to present to local officials its proposal for a cooperative endeavor agreement with the utility.

“Representatives from Entergy Louisiana plan to be in attendance at this evening’s [Tuesday’s] council meeting,” an Entergy Louisiana communications rep said in the statement. “If invited to make a statement, we will certainly reiterate our interest in an opportunity to conduct our own due diligence and submit a proposal from Entergy Louisiana to the city of Lafayette to manage the Lafayette Utility System.”

The referenced meeting is a special briefing of the Lafayette Public Utilities Authority, the City-Parish Council body that governs and regulates LUS. Per open meeting rules, Entergy would be allotted five minutes to speak if representatives sign up to do so, LPUA Chairwoman Liz Hebert told The Current.

Entergy first approached Mayor-President Joel Robideaux earlier in his administration. Robideaux has before acknowledged similar discussions with Cleco. Robideaux said through his spokeswoman that conversations with Entergy have continued intermittently since at least June of this year. Robideaux confirmed to The Current that he spoke with Entergy officials Tuesday morning.

The mayor-president ultimately signed a non-binding letter of intent in April of this year with Bernhard Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in Baton Rouge, allowing the firm to evaluate LUS for a potential management contract. Bernhard is launching a new utility firm, NextGEN Utility Systems, with intentions to acquire dozens of municipal utility companies scattered around the Southeast. Public power advocates say NextGEN is the first company to attempt such a massive play on publicly-owned power.

Entergy’s said in its statement that it is “happy to participate in an RFP process.” To date, Robideaux has not initiated any open bid process to solicit offers that would compete with the $1.3 billion package from Bernhard Capital Partners currently on the table.

Robideaux said in a statement to The Current that he is open to any type of process that would benefit the interests of the ratepayers. — Additional reporting by Leslie Turk