Entergy rates will climb more, Comans says

Published 12:00 am Thursday, April 19, 2001

[04/19/01] Despite the end of an unseasonably cold winter, Entergy rates will keep going up, reflecting prices the electric utility paid for natural gas to run its generating plants.

Cheryl Comans, manager of Entergy’s Vicksburg operation, told Lions Club members Wednesday that rates, which have been going up monthly, are expected to rise another $9 per 1,000 kilowatt hours during the second quarter of the year.

Checky Herrington, spokesman for Entergy, said the rate is now $81 per 1,000 kilowatt hours.

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Comans said since January of last year, natural gas prices increased 400 percent. At the beginning of 2000, Entergy was paying about $2 per million BTUs but by January 2001, the company was paying almost $10 per million BTUs. The reason, she said, was simple economics and the laws of supply and demand.

“The high demand forced Entergy to buy large amounts of natural gas,” Comans said. “It had an impact on electric bills.”

Comans said projections for the third and fourth quarters show prices should go down.

In the meantime, Entergy continues to look for other alternatives to providing low cost utilities without using natural gas.

During the crunch, several gas-fired plants, including Baxter-Wilson in Vicksburg, were converted to less expensive fuel oil.

But Comans said fuel oil can be used only in moderation because of standards set by environmental laws and regulations.

Entergy will continue to provide customers options to help pay bills, Comans said.

Most popular is budget billing, which calculates a user’s previous 12-month average and bases each new bill on that amount. There is also a program that allows customers to choose due dates for their monthly bills.

Entergy also has a program operated by the Salvation Army. Capt. John Showers of the Salvation Army said the Entergy Concern program allows customers to add $1 to their bills and that money goes to pay utility bills for others.

Showers said qualified applicants for assistance must be over 60, or if younger, be disabled or have a disabled person in the home. He said the fund will pay $50 toward a utility bill three times a year during emergency need.

He said he expects needs to increase as summer approaches and people use air conditioning more often.