Insights > Reflecting on 100 years in business, Entergy Mississippi is planning for another successful century
Reflecting on 100 years in business, Entergy Mississippi is planning for another successful century
One of the oldest power generation companies in America, Entergy Mississippi, is celebrating its 100th anniversary in 2023. The organization began as The Mississippi Power & Light Company in 1923, with a handful of municipal electric systems. Today, it serves over 450,000 residential, commercial, and industrial customers in 45 of Mississippi’s 82 counties.
The organization is passionate about supporting the communities in which it operates, whether through helping local charities or contributing to the regional energy economy. It balances the resiliency and reliability of the grid while keeping customers’ costs down and is working towards a more sustainable grid that can be accessed by all.
Entergy Mississippi is also juggling the demands of modern consumers as the world approaches global energy transition. With several technologies and renewable energy sources in constant discussion, Haley Fisackerly, Entergy Mississippi’s President and CEO, is tasked with managing, and meeting customers’ expectations.
Haley joins us to discuss the ever-changing market in Mississippi, the adoption of renewables, and the ways in which the company gives back to the communities in which it operates. “This year, we’re celebrating 100 years of doing business in Mississippi, which was the second of Entergy Corporation’s operating companies that were incorporated into the group,” he opens.
“Our Founder, Harvey Couch, established Arkansas Power and Light, which is now Entergy Arkansas, in 1913. Ten years later, he came across the river into Mississippi and chartered into what was then Mississippi Power & Light Company and is now Entergy Mississippi. After that charter in April 1923, Harvey started acquiring various municipalities and the corporation grew from there.
“When we think about electricity, it’s something that many of us take for granted; we don’t order it, we just wake up and it’s there, ready to be flicked on and used,” Haley continues. “However, back when we started, electricity was still somewhat a novelty. Not everyone had electricity, mainly because people couldn’t afford it, so it was limited to municipalities that could have a power plant and deployed lines.
“The birth of our company ran almost in parallel to the birth of the electricity industry itself,” he proposes. “Here we are 100 years later and for most of us, we couldn’t imagine life without power. We truly are the bloodline of the communities and the customers we serve, as well as driving the state’s economy.”
Resilient and reliable
Operating in an area prone to storms, hurricanes, and tornadoes, Entergy Mississippi is responsible for power restoration after outages in the region. Recognizing that electrical power is now a necessity of day-to-day life, it is concentrating its efforts on strengthening the grid to bring enhanced reliability but also resiliency in the event of adverse weather.
“2023 has been a tumultuous year for us,” Haley reflects. “We’ve been hit with record cold temperatures, awful tornadoes hit some of our communities in March, and then we had a June like we’ve never seen before with a series of thunderstorms equal to Category 1 hurricanes. We’ve also dealt with record high temperatures, which surpassed our peak record three days in a row.
“When we have storms or outages for other reasons, power can be rerouted with its self-healing capabilities,” he proposes. “Although the entire utility industry must have effective storm response units, not just the energy sector, it is our mission to harden our grid to consistently and reliably provide cleaner energy to our customers.”
Haley continues: “One of the things I love most about my job is the opportunity to work with our communities and help them grow. Our most valuable asset is our people, many of whom live in local areas alongside our customers and we’re passionate about giving back to them.
“I’m also constantly aware that 20 percent of our customers live below the national poverty level, so we’re dedicated to deploying technologies and energy sources that benefit all our customers. We support local business by providing various economic incentives to help people get started, or even help existing companies through times of difficulty.”
With sustainability and renewables dominating discussions over the future of energy, Entergy Mississippi is playing into these conversations. Striving to provide the safest, cleanest energy to its customers, the organization is constantly searching for ways to lower costs while meeting increasing demands for sustainable power.
“Historically, the big debate in the US was deregulation of the industry, but after many failed attempts, we saw the wholesale markets become extremely competitive,” Haley recalls. “However, there is widespread recognition that retail markets still require regulation to enable us to deploy technologies and find new ways of generating energy.
“We’re looking at solar power, for example, as well as wind power and the use of hydrogen, but to be able to launch such technologies takes a huge capital expense. The best way to do that, I believe, is under a modernized, regulated model. There will be more distributed energy resources moving forward, from rooftop solar panels to micro turbines or grids.
“We have a heavy mix of natural gas and nuclear and have a commitment to increasingly add renewables to our portfolio. We’re striving to be well-positioned to appropriately respond to energy circumstances. When the sun is shining, we’re ready to deploy solar power, and when we get a cloud, we can quickly transition using all available resources to find another clean, effective alternative.
“We’re deploying 1000-megawatts of solar facilities over the next five years, for instance, as part of our Economic Development with Green Energy (EDGE) program,” he reveals. “This strategy is two-fold, giving Mississippi an edge in recruiting industry while simultaneously giving Entergy customers
an effective hedge against volatile natural gas prices.”
Aside from sustainability, the evolution of technology has resulted in several changes to the company’s operations. “We’re no longer our grandfather’s utility,” laughs Haley.
“The biggest advancement we’ve seen in our lifetime is communications technology, which is transforming the way we manage and produce energy, especially as we modernize the grid. The future will almost certainly include smart grids, so we must learn how to best operate them and how to use devices like reclosers.
“It’s not only technology that has changed the way we monitor the grid and reroute power, but the materials have changed too. For example, we’re currently in the process of replacing wooden transmission poles with more resilient steel ones, which can withstand winds of up to 155 miles per hour.”
As our conversation draws to a close, Haley adds: “Our goal remains to meet customers’ expectations and address some of the many challenges currently facing the entire industry. While challenges lie ahead, it is those opportunities that excite me. It’s amazing to see the industry progress with technology. It excites me that we can start to imagine a day where people don’t lose power. It’s within the realm of possibility, particularly when we start to analyze how we can build a smart grid with various distributed energy sources.
“Further afield, I’d like to see us as the premier utility company in Mississippi, and even in the US,” he concludes. “We will continue to deliver the best service and most competitive rates for our customers, while also providing opportunities for our employees and the wider communities.”
This article was originally published in Energy, Oil & Gas Magazine. To view it, click here.