State utility regulators have approved a plan that will allow Mississippi Power Company to begin permanently recouping costs for its troubled Kemper County Coal Plant.
In a 3-0 decision in Jackson yesterday, the Mississippi Public Service Commission voted to allow the utility provider to collect an additional $126 million a year from ratepayers. The decision eliminates a temporary rate increase that was approved in September, and effectively acts as a four percent decrease on what customers are currently paying.
Bradon Presley is the Commissioner for the Northern District. He says yesterday's agreement only takes into account those areas of the plant currently deemed operational.
"It looks at what is being in service today at the Kemper plant, being run on natural gas," says Presley, "and it doesn't deem anything prudent, obviously, until there is commercial operation in other ways. To me, it's a step in the right direction to bring rates down and bring some stability."
Completion of the $6.5 billion Kemper County Power Plant is nearly two years behind schedule and billions of dollars over budget. The project has put serious strain on Mississippi Power's finances, placing the company on the verge of bankruptcy.
Mississippi Power CEO Ed Holland says the decision will provide security for the financially beleaguered company.
"It was important to the company from the perspective that we finally have some revenue used to support what is being built at the Kemper Plant," says Holland. "What it will do, we hope, will return us to a financially viable position so that we can access credit markets and can continue to get the support of Southern Company.
Officials with Mississippi Power expect the Kemper County Plant to be completely online in the first half of next year. The commission will revisit possible rate changes when the plant is fully operational.