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Entergy CEO, former energy secretary say nuclear, gas key to climate solution

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Entergy Corp. CEO Leo Denault speaks during the company's forum on New Orleans' clean energy future on Oct. 7, 2019.
Source: Entergy Corp.

The U.S. needs to deploy all available low- and zero-carbon resources "in the toolbox" to lower emissions and fight climate change, Entergy Corp. CEO Leo Denault and former U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz said during an Oct. 7 forum on New Orleans' energy future.

Bringing down greenhouse gas emissions requires "a combination of nuclear power, cleaner and more efficient gas-fired generation as well as the ever-increasing deployment of solar and other renewables," Denault said.

"Nuclear has to continue to be part of this," the CEO added. "Its cost structure, its reliability, its capacity factor all make sense in making sure we drive the right level of service to our customers at the right price while we do it sustainability."

Utilities and stakeholders also need to take a similar attitude toward natural gas, Denault said, adding that gas has allowed companies such as Entergy to move away from coal-fired generation to less carbon-intensive resources.

Moniz, who served as energy secretary from 2013 to 2017 during former President Barack Obama's administration, echoed those sentiments. Natural gas "has caused the revolution" toward the country's biggest carbon reductions, Moniz said. Gas with wind and solar remains a "complementary combination" until the industry achieves further innovation with batteries and storage to overcome more seasonality and weather conditions.

"Too often, the dialogue is going towards gas vs. renewables," Moniz said. "No, it's gas plus renewables ... there is no way around it. They have the intermittency that can be addressed, at least for now, through the integration with natural gas."

Denault and Moniz's remarks come as Entergy and its subsidiaries examine their generation fleet and sustainability efforts. During Entergy's July 31 earnings call, Denault announced that the company plans to add 7,000 MW to 8,000 MW of new renewable and gas-fired generation to its system from 2022 to 2030 to replace aging and less efficient power projects. In April, the company disclosed its new target to cut CO2 emissions intensity to half of 2000 levels by 2030.

Meanwhile, the New Orleans City Council is currently undergoing a rulemaking process to establish a renewable portfolio standard for Entergy subsidiary Entergy New Orleans LLC. In a June 3 letter to the city council, Entergy New Orleans proposed that the city should create a nonbinding goal of serving 70% of customers' energy needs with zero-carbon-emitting resources by 2030.

"We've been able to make those emission reductions by continuing to operate and maintain our nuclear plants," Denault said in his remarks.