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Entergy answers questions about power grid reliability

By Randy Bell

A severe storm which swept across Clinton in late March knocked out electrical service in many neighborhoods, but power outages on calmer days are harder to explain. So, the City invited Entergy representatives to the Board of Aldermen’s work session on May 1 to shed some light on why the lights go out from time to time, even when there’s not a big storm rolling through.

“It’s been an increasing problem that we’ve had,” said Weaver McCracken, treasurer of the Olde Vineyard Homeowners’ Association. He was among several citizens who attended the meeting to voice complaints about the reliability of the local power grid.

Dianne Platt said her neighborhood, Countrywood, has outages, even though the utility lines are buried.

“We were so excited when we moved there, because everything was underground,” said Platt. But she’s learned that even though those buried lines are protected from falling limbs, they’re not indestructible and need to be replaced as they get older. Platt said above-ground lines which supply power to the neighborhood run through a swampy area, which is difficult to access when there’s a problem. And she said, “The backup systems are not as reliable as they ought to be.”

Entergy Mississippi Customer Service Manager Tammy Rankin said it’s more complicated than it may seem.

“Turning the light switch on or off at home makes the power grid seem simple, but it’s really a complex system that requires many pieces of equipment like transformers, cables, poles and meters to get power to homes and businesses,” explained Rankin. “Aside from weather, overhanging or falling vegetation interfering with equipment is the most common cause of power outages in the Clinton area.”

Ward 2 Alderman Jim Martin said the information that Entergy provided at the meeting was helpful.

“They explained a little bit about [the power grid] and how it worked,” said Martin. “But they also recognized some of the problem areas we have in town and said they were looking at some solutions on that, too. It wasn’t really clear as to how quick we might actually see some improvement there, but it was kind of comforting that they did understand where some of our problem areas were and were hopeful they could find some fixes, even though there were some challenges.”

Rankin said they’re working to solve the problems.

“We are implementing a number of efforts to help strengthen the power grid’s resiliency. These projects are designed to improve reliability and handle the future growth of the area,” she said. “For example, we’re replacing aging infrastructure, rather than patching equipment when failures occur. As new equipment is installed, we’re able to track it throughout its lifespan and, hopefully, mitigate any future problems before they occur. We have a project underway that identifies and replaces wood poles with stronger, more resilient poles in our service area, including the Clinton area.”

The City’s previous tree-trimming ordinance, which required an arborist to accompany the crews and mandated immediate pickup of limbs, prompted Entergy to suspend power line clearing in Clinton, and Martin said that may account for some of the recent outages.

“But I think some of the problems preceded that [ordinance],” he said.

McCracken said Entergy “needs time to catch up” after Clinton’s Board of Aldermen voted in March to loosen the tree-trimming requirements. “I feel like now that the City has changed the ordinance, [Entergy’s] hands are not tied anymore, and they can move forward and get things done. But it’s going to take a while to get it taken care of. We need to be reasonable.”
Entergy is optimistic that the revised rules will make a difference.

“The recent changes to the City’s tree-trimming ordinance will allow us to perform work to reduce vegetation-related outages,” Rankin said.

Central District Public Service Commissioner (PSC) Brent Bailey says the PSC focuses a lot of its attention on the duration and frequency of outages among the utilities it regulates statewide.

“It is a metric we evaluate every year as we’re conducting our rate studies. That goes into the decision-making process,” said Bailey. “We’re always trying to identify weak spots and work with the utilities to put the resources necessary to respond to those issues. We certainly want to reduce, as much as we can, those outages experienced by customers. That’s something that’s always front and center for all of us.”

Bailey says the commission welcomes information from the public about problems with the power grid—or other utility issues.

“We want to get out there and investigate and get information from the utilities on why this is occurring and work with them to establish some type of plan to reasonably understand and set in place benchmarks to help resolve that issue.”

Bailey’s office can be reached at 601-961-5430 or online at:

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