/Regulators weigh Kemper plant’s future

Regulators weigh Kemper plant’s future

On Monday, key participants in the Kemper County energy facility project presented their arguments to state regulators. These arguments will help determine the future and value of the plant. The Mississippi Public Service Commission will eventually review hundreds of documents and the testimony of key players to determine how much Mississippi Power Co. can charge customers for the Kemper plant currently in use. Witnesses testified before the Mississippi Public Service Commission at the E. T. Woolfolk building in Jackson. They addressed rumors and elaborated on statements made to the Mississippi Public Service Commission. Some witnesses, including employees of Mississippi Power Co. or Liberty Coal Energy Corp., suggested that the plant could still use syngas one day if natural gas prices rise again. Mississippi Power Vice President Treasurer and Chief Financial Officer Moses Feagin, and other Mississippi Power witnesses, suggested that the company could request that the plant be re-operated on synthesis gas or syngas if it is cheaper. Feagin stated that if it makes sense for customers, there is no reason to not. Based on the filings, Commissioner Brandon Presley stated Monday that it was unlikely that companies would implement this plan. He said that if they did, they would finance the technology without any assistance from ratepayers. Regulators can also remove syngas, made from lignite, from the plant’s certificate or operating license. This would mean that the plant cannot operate on natural gas. Steps Coalition and Sierra Club argued that the building of gasifiers for synthesis gas-powered plants was a risky proposition and should be stopped. Michael Adelman, an attorney representing Thomas Blanton (a Hattiesburg oil businessman), said that ratepayers shouldn’t have to fork over a dime to fund this project. He was also the plaintiff in a case brought by the state Supreme Court in which Mississippi Power was ordered to refund its customers in 2015. Adelman stated that “we all make mistakes.” “Not necessarily $7.5 Billion ones.” Mississippi Public Service Commission will decide on February 6 whether it will allow Mississippi Power Co. to recover approximately $99.3 Million annually from its 187.732 customers. It covers 23 counties in its coverage area for the Kemper County energy plant’s working parts. This amount is $13.3million less annually than the December last stipulation document. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act was included in the lower rates. It became law just weeks after the stipulation was filed. The act reduced the tax rates of utility companies from a 35% tax rate to a 21% tax rate. This will be reflected in customers’ bills soon. It is still not known how Mississippi Power’s plant’s actual value will impact its rates. Mississippi Power will announce any rate changes in filings this year. Mississippi Power rates are determined each year by the Public Service Commission using a performance-based process known as a Performance Evaluation Plan (or PEP-5).