Entergy Arkansas cuts plans for natural gas plant, seeks more renewable energy resources

by Jeff Della Rosa ([email protected]) 2,259 views 

Entergy Arkansas, a utility of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp., recently released its 2021 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) that doesn’t include plans to build a new natural gas-fired power plant but was included in the previous long-range plan. To replace this capacity, the utility looks to add more renewable energy resources to its electricity generation portfolio.

As a utility regulated by the Arkansas Public Service Commission, Entergy Arkansas must submit an IRP to the commission every three years. The IRP shows how a utility will meet its long-term electricity demand. Entergy’s 2021 IRP covers 20 years, through 2042. In its previous IRP in 2018, Entergy Arkansas had included plans to build a natural gas-fired power plant.

Following is a statement from Entergy Arkansas when asked about removing the plant from its IRP:

“The analysis we conducted in our 2021 Integrated Resource Plan showed that renewable resources represent the best combination of cost, reliability and environmental sustainability for meeting the load and energy requirements of our customers. Removing the natural gas-powered CCGT (combined cycle gas turbines) from Entergy Arkansas’ prior resource plan and replacing it with emission-free renewable resources provided better economics and increased environmental benefits for our customers.”

Environmental group Sierra Club has advocated against investments into natural gas plants and noted that methane, the primary component of natural gas, is a greenhouse gas that over 20 years absorbs 86 times more heat than carbon dioxide.

“It is good to see Entergy pivot away from a substantial investment in fracked natural gas in its final IRP compared to its initial draft,” said Glen Hooks, Sierra Club’s Arkansas chapter director. “The risks of gas are well documented, including volatile price spikes and widespread failure during the February freeze, environmental destruction caused by fracking, and releases of dangerous methane emissions during the extraction, transportation and burning of gas. It is clear that gas is not a bridge to a sustainable future and must be excluded from utility goals to reach net-zero emissions because of our changing climate. Because IRPs are non-binding, it is my hope that Entergy Arkansas avoids gas investments in the future and focuses on a clean energy portfolio that can deliver reliable and low-cost energy to its customers.”

In August, the utility requested proposals to procure 500 megawatts of renewable energy resources, including solar or wind projects. This is 200 megawatts more than its initial notice to issue a request for proposals in April. According to the August request, the projects must be completed no later than May 31, 2025. That year, Entergy Arkansas is set to deactivate natural gas-fired Lake Catherine Unit 4.

The deactivation comprises one of eight action items in the 2021 IRP. Others include acquiring the 100-megawatt Searcy, 100-megawatt Walnut Bend, and 180-megawatt West Memphis solar plants as they are completed from 2021 to 2023; energy efficiency programs; and sustainability solutions.

According to the IRP, Entergy Arkansas owns or has power purchase agreements for 5,466 megawatts of installed capacity. This includes 1,712 megawatts from the two-unit Arkansas Nuclear One plant near Russellville, 303 megawatts from the Grand Gulf Nuclear Station near Port Gibson, Miss., and 1,028 megawatts from coal-fired White Bluff Steam Electric Station and Independence Steam Electric Station near Redfield and Newark.

According to a settlement agreement between Entergy and Sierra Club and National Parks Conservation Association, the latter two coal-fired plants are expected to be retired by 2028 and 2030, respectively. The utility also is expected to begin developing renewable energy projects with a total capacity of 800 megawatts by 2027. Also included in the agreement is the retirement of the Lake Catherine plant by 2027.

According to its 2021 IRP, Entergy Arkansas has 2,106 megawatts of natural gas-fired generation, including 600 megawatts from Hot Spring Plant, 486 megawatts from the Ouachita Plant and 498 megawatts from Power Block 2 of Union Power Station. The utility also has 81 megawatts of solar from the Stuttgart Solar facility and 100 megawatts of solar from the Chicot Solar facility and 73 megawatts of hydroelectric capacity along the Ouachita River Valley.

In 2020, Entergy Arkansas met 72% of its electricity demand with nuclear power, 16.6% with natural gas, 5.2% with market purchases, 5% with coal, 1% with hydro and 0.3% with solar. The IRP shows that by 2023, the utility expects 37% of its electricity demand to be met by natural gas, 35% by nuclear, 18% by coal, 6% by interruptible load, 4% by solar and 1% by hydro.

In 2020, the utility announced a goal of reducing its carbon emissions from its operations to net-zero by 2050. Entergy Arkansas has more than 722,000 customers in 63 of the state’s 75 counties.