New Orleans’ Utility Ordered to Address Energy Burden and Heat Islands Through Improved Energy Efficiency Offerings for Low-Income Customers

Sierra Club and its partners succeeded in persuading the New Orleans City Council to order the city’s utility, Entergy New Orleans, to improve its energy efficiency programs for low-income customers. The City Council adopted a resolution stating that the utility’s programs should alleviate inequitable energy burdens, particularly in urban heat islands. New Orleans’ low-income households have some of the highest energy burdens in the country (the percentage of income spent on energy bills), and the city also ranks highest in the country for urban heat island intensity. Effective and accessible energy efficiency programs are crucial to addressing these challenges. Sierra Club’s Environmental Law Program is working at the local level to improve these programs for low-income households. 

Sierra Club, joined by Alliance for Affordable Energy and Audubon, participated in the New Orleans City Council’s rulemaking docket on Entergy’s “EnergySmart” efficiency program. The Council’s closing Resolution details Sierra Club’s advocacy urging improvements to (1) target energy efficiency programs to neighborhoods where high energy burden and extreme heat risks overlap; (2) address funding for home repairs that may be needed prior to weatherization; (3) collect data necessary to evaluate and improve the equity and effectiveness of the EnergySmart Program; and (4) leverage funding from newly available state and federal sources. Sierra Club also pushed for the program to include heat pump installations and improve programs for multi-family housing.  

In response, the Council ordered Entergy New Orleans to submit a plan for the type of neighborhood-based targeting program recommended by Sierra Club by April 2024. The Council also ordered the company to “include program offerings that address urban heat islanding and inequitable energy burdens and other energy-related environmental and social justice issues.” In response to Sierra Club’s comments, the company also committed to begin collecting a key data point - the number of homes that are turned down for energy efficiency services due to a home repair need - and to work with stakeholders to pursue new funding opportunities. While the Council did not order all of the program improvements recommended by Sierra Club and its partners, the Resolution takes concrete steps towards alleviating the immense burdens faced by many of Entergy New Orleans’ customers.  

Sierra Club was represented in the docket by ELP managing attorney Elena Saxonhouse and former ELP senior attorney Sharonda Williams-Tack.