/PSC’s Presley Don’t expect ratepayer help with Mississippi Power’s federal Kemper debt

PSC’s Presley Don’t expect ratepayer help with Mississippi Power’s federal Kemper debt

Presley stated, “They will be laughed at out of the meeting.” Presley was responding in part to reports that Atlanta-based Southern Co. (parent company of Mississippi Power) reported in its quarterly financial report that the Department of Justice’s Civil Division is investigating the company regarding grants totalling more than $380million that it received from the Department of Energy. According to the statement, the investigation could have a significant impact on its finances. Presley said that the issue was for the Department of Energy, and the Southern Company regarding what they must pay back. He did not provide any details. In 2009, the utility company announced plans to build the facility. Plans stated that Kemper would turn lignite coal into natural gas (a process called gasification) and also include a small amount of natural gas to produce electricity. The original cost of the plant and its nearby lignite mine was nearly $3 billion. It is scheduled to be fully operational by May 2014. According to the company, the facility, which is 582-megawatt, will power nearly 3 billion homes in Mississippi Power customers. It was scheduled for full operation by May 2014. Construction was delayed by bad weather, labor shortages and incorrect estimates of time and materials, as well as technology snafus. This made the project more expensive than ever. It is now a conventional natural gas power station. The state’s public utilities regulators approved a settlement of approximately $99.3million annually for eight years from Mississippi Power customers in February 2018. This is less than the rate increase that the lignite plant would require. This amount will be used to pay for the natural gas portion at the Kemper County energy plant that has provided power to 23 counties since 2014. Mississippi Power supplies electricity to approximately 190,000. Most of its customers are located in the south and east Mississippi. The Kemper plant is not part of its service area. It was controversial right from its inception, with both Presley and Attorney General Jim Hood (both Democrats) questioning its feasibility. Then-Gov. Haley Barbour, a Republican lobbied federal officials to help build the plant, which was hailed as a technological breakthrough because it used coal to produce electricity, with less carbon dioxide emissions. The project was hailed as a job-creator for the state, but it received no state funding. The Legislature granted Mississippi Power authority in 2013 to issue $1 billion worth of bonds to finance the project. The PSC would have to approve the bonds. Presley joked that if they had attempted to issue these bonds, I would have started nuclear war.”