By Kyle Massey

Entergy Arkansas is publicizing the savings it has achieved over the past five years with MISO, the regional power transmission organization it joined in 2014, even as its parent company looks to the future with an aggressive new plan for reducing the utility’s carbon footprint.

The state’s largest electric utility, serving more than 700,000 Arkansas households and businesses, Entergy says its customers have saved nearly a quarter of a billion dollars through its membership in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator Inc. MISO, which manages the flow of power on the transmission grid and operates markets for the purchase and sale of wholesale energy in an area stretching between Canada and the Gulf of Mexico, has a major headquarters in Little Rock.

The savings are largely attributed to MISO’s ability to dispatch power plants efficiently on the grid, resulting in a lower delivered cost of energy. Savings also accrues from MISO members sharing generation reserves.

Meanwhile, Entergy Corp. of New Orleans is looking ahead with a strategy to reduce 50% of its carbon production by 2030, largely by employing cleaner fuels. The analysis behind the strategy, “Climate Scenario Analysis and Evaluation of Risks and Opportunities,” was first published in March.

“We’re pleased to announce a new climate objective,” Entergy Corp. CEO Leo Denault said on April 22, a development reported by Wesley Brown of Talk Business & Politics. “By 2030, Entergy will emit 50% less carbon dioxide for every unit of electricity than we did in 2000. This renewed commitment to the environment not only delivers clean energy solutions for our customers, it creates long-term, sustainable value for all our stakeholders.”

Entergy Arkansas also sees long-term benefits in its association with MISO.

“Our first priority is to provide safe, reliable electric service to our customers at a reasonable rate,” said Kurt Castleberry, Entergy Arkansas’ director of resource planning. “When we proposed joining MISO, we told our customers that this would be a good business decision that would benefit their bill each month. We believe we have made good on that promise.”

Entergy Arkansas’ residential electric rates are 13% below the regional norm and 25% below the national average, according to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration’s 12-month rolling average from February 2018 to January of this year.

“Our customers have saved on average about $45 million per year since we joined MISO,” Castleberry said.

The parent company’s climate change initiative, laid out in a 54-page analysis posted on Entergy’s website last month, came on the heels of Entergy Arkansas’ agreement with environmentalists to shut down its coal-fired plants at Redfield in Newark over the next decade. That deal has faced uncertainty since Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge asked for an Arkansas Public Service Commission review. Her concern is that shutting down the coal plants might cost ratepayers more under certain circumstances.

The Entergy report notes that coal generation has been declining rapidly nationwide, and that it is investing billions of dollars through 2022 on new and efficient natural gas and solar and wind generation sources. The plan would also ensure the long-term value of Entergy’s nuclear power sources, including Arkansas Nuclear One near Russellville. Once the bane of environmentalists, nuclear plants — which do not emit carbon — are now generally seen as more benign than coal plants.

Over the next five years, Entergy is also planning to invest billions in grid modernization and transmission and distribution infrastructure.