Utility providers went before the Public Service Commission on Wednesday to explain last week’s winter storm power outages and the poor communication to customers about those outages.

Entergy CEO Phillip May said the grid faced significantly more demand than it had supply and they were given 30 minutes by a regulator to begin rolling blackouts.

“We make every reasonable effort to provide as much notice as possible, but in cases like this we cannot always do that in a timely fashion. These types of outages are a last resort,” said May.

That super-regional regulator, the Midcontinent Independent System Operator, operates an energy market in 15 states throughout the center of the country. Nearly all of those states were caught in last week’s polar vortex.

May said part of the problem last week was that they could not source enough natural gas to maintain a normal level of power production.

“We did have generating units that were offline as a result of a lack of availability of gas, just a lack of supply, unable to secure supply,” said May.

Providers acknowledged that natural gas prices for February were far higher than they usually are, and that will be passed on to customers.

Meanwhile, the utility serving New Orleans appears to have cut three times as much electricity as it needed to during emergency winter weather blackouts last week.

Company executives said Tuesday that the reductions slashed power to roughly 26,000 families and businesses on Mardi Gras night. Officials with Entergy New Orleans told the City Council that a regional grid manager called for the utility to reduce the city’s power consumption by 26 megawatts. Instead, estimates show, more than 80 megawatts of electricity was shut off.

Subfreezing weather and rolling blackouts added misery to what was already a muted Mardi Gras celebration in New Orleans.

(Story written by Matt Doyle/Louisiana Radio Network & KEVIN McGILL/AP)

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