Entergy's Rick Riley on Keeping Costs Low, Power Lines High

Entergy's Rick Riley on Keeping Costs Low, Power Lines High
Rick Reily

Before becoming the group vice president of Entergy's customer service and operations, Rick Riley had been vice president of transmission for Entergy Services Inc. since 2010 and before that was director of transmission and distribution operations for Entergy Mississippi Inc. Riley began his utility career in 1985 at Gulf States Utilities in Beaumont, Texas.

Riley holds a bachelor’s degree in electrical engineering and a master’s in engineering management from Lamar University in Beaumont and an MBA from Tulane University in New Orleans. Riley is a registered professional engineer in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Rick Riley is scheduled to become president and CEO of Entergy Arkansas on the retirement of Hugh McDonald in 2016.

What’s your forecast for Arkansas energy costs in the next 10 years?

The industry as a whole is facing the need for large capital investments to address generation needs, aging infrastructure and environmental compliance. Entergy Arkansas provides safe, reliable electric service for 700,000 customers while making major investments to position our communities for growth. From 2014 until 2017, we’re investing $2.4 billion in generation, transmission and distribution improvements to the state’s electrical infrastructure throughout the service area. Even after Entergy Arkansas’ pending rate case, rates are expected to remain below the regional and national average.

We have been working with our large businesses on ways to keep their rates competitive, because we believe that competitive rates for our largest class of customers will help support economic development and create jobs in Arkansas.

What is Entergy doing to address climate change, both in terms of lowering emissions and of protecting facilities to withstand potentially more frequent and more intense weather events like floods, hurricanes, tornadoes and ice storms?

Over 70 percent of the electricity we produce is sourced from emissions-free nuclear generation, mostly from Arkansas Nuclear One, making our generation portfolio one of the cleanest in the country. If the Arkansas Public Service Commission approves Entergy’s Union Power Plant acquisition, Entergy Arkansas will have replaced approximately one third (1,600 megawatts) of the utility’s entire generation fleet in the last six years with highly efficient and cleaner natural gas plants.

Several transmission reliability projects underway across our territory are replacing outdated wood poles with more resilient steel or concrete transmission structures. We continue to trim trees year-round, a major component of storm preparation.

Finally, our crews are installing alternate load transfer devices and other new technology to minimize the duration of outages.

Speaking of ice storms and other harsh weather, would it be beneficial to have all power lines underground?

Building new underground distribution systems can cost up to $4.5 million per mile in a city and up to $2 million per mile in rural areas. Given that we have about 34,000 miles of overhead distribution lines, undergrounding our existing distribution facilities would result in substantially higher monthly electric bills. We will continue to analyze the benefits versus the costs and consider all of our options when installing new facilities and renovating existing facilities.

What is Entergy doing to support alternative energy uses?

We will soon add the largest emissions-free solar generation facility in the state to our portfolio. This 500-acre facility will be constructed near Stuttgart and produce enough electricity from sunlight to power about 13,000 homes. We also administer the state’s largest and most extensive portfolio of energy efficiency programs, available to all of our customers, which provide cash incentives and services to use energy more efficiently.