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CenterPoint, Entergy Arkansas Announce Lower Customer Costs

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Lower bills are coming to hundreds of thousands of Arkansas natural gas and electric power customers thanks to developments announced this week.

On Thursday, CenterPoint Energy announced lower gas rates starting this month, a decrease of about 4.2 percent, or $2.07 a month less on the average bill. The savings are tied to the company’s yearly Formula Rate Plan, which requires rates to reflect the utility’s actual cost of serving its 400,000 residential and business customers in Arkansas.

Meanwhile, Entergy Arkansas announced that its 700,000 customers will see an average $1.11 monthly decrease in their bills thanks to the utility’s membership in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, a regional transmission organization with headquarters in Little Rock.

The Arkansas Public Service Commission, which approved the 25% increase in the MISO credit, also recently approved the rate plan for CenterPoint, the energy giant based in Houston.

Cindy Westcott, vice president for the gas company’s Arkansas and Oklahoma region, called the annual FRP a regulatory mechanism that lets the utility “pass along savings to customers and maintain reasonable rates.” In a statement, she said CenterPoint had “succeeded in controlling our operational expenses even as we continue delivering excellent service to our customers and maintaining a safe, reliable system with additional investments in pipeline integrity and leak reduction.”

Noting the coronavirus emergency, CenterPoint stressed that it is working with customers struggling to pay their bills, and has suspended natural gas disconnections for nonpayment since March. The overall company has more than 7 million customers in Arkansas, Indiana, Louisiana, Minnesota, Mississippi, Ohio, Oklahoma and Texas.

Entergy Arkansas, also making its announcement Thursday, said it expects its customers to save $94 million next year through its connection with MISO. The independent nonprofit oversees the grid and power markets for 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba, reaping savings on wholesale electricity through resource coordination and efficiency.

The 2021 total MISO estimate is $19.6 million more than 2020’s savings, the utility said, and an average 25% increase in MISO credits per customer. MISO membership saved its customers $298 million from 2014 to 2019, the utility said.

Kurt Castleberry, Entergy Arkansas’ director of resource planning, said in a news release that joining MISO in 2013 “was a very good decision for our customers in Arkansas, as well as customers throughout the Entergy system. 

“Entergy’s membership in MISO has saved Entergy customers in all five operating companies about $1.5 billion over six years.”

MISO operates one of the world’s largest energy markets with more than $29 billion in annual gross market energy transactions. Since 2013, the transmission organization has guided power from Entergy’s generating plants and has helped the utility plan transmission expansions and improvements. MISO also operates markets for the purchase and sale of wholesale power. It achieves savings by dispatching power more efficiently on the transmission grid, lowering the cost of delivered electricity.

“Our membership in MISO has been a highly effective tool in helping us control costs and keep our rates among the lowest in the nation,” Castleberry said.

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