UPDATE 1-Entergy relinquishes control of grid after years of talk

Thu Dec 19, 2013 1:12pm EST
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Dec 19 (Reuters) - U.S. power company Entergy Corp on Thursday completed the integration of its Gulf Coast service area into the power grid that operates the Midwest power system, relinquishing control after a decade-long struggle with regulators and independent power companies.

Entergy said the move into the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) grid is projected to save its consumers $1.4 billion in the first decade.

"While this event marks the finish line for hundreds of team members who've been involved in the integration, it's really just the starting gun in our journey to capture savings and benefits for our customers," said Tom Reagan, Entergy's vice president for the MISO integration.

The move may also help Entergy resolve a U.S. Justice Department inquiry into alleged anti-competitive behavior by Entergy that independent power companies said hindered their ability to move electricity to customers for years.

"We want to take functional control of these assets out of Entergy's hands, so that gives an arm's length transaction about how transmission is built and operated," said Brandon Presley, a member of the Mississippi Public Service Commission and a long-time critic of Entergy's grid operation.

"We approved this because we are penny-pinchers," Presley said. "We want to save customers money."

Observers are hopeful that third-party control of Entergy's four-state grid will revive wholesale power trading in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and southeast Texas as the region prepares for an industrial renaissance.

Financial players will likely want to see a year or so of price history and will wait for trading to consolidate to one of the three new hubs in the region, known as MISO South.   Continued...