Regulators in Mississippi, USA, are drafting a plan for the utility Southern Company to use only natural gas at its clean coal power plant in Kemper County, and that it not be allowed to recoup the cost of the expensive coal portion of the power plant by charging ratepayers.
The Mississippi Public Service Commission has unanimously passed a motion instructing its counsel to prepare an order by 6 July that outlines potential solutions for keeping the Kemper County Power Generation Facility running on natural gas in order to reduce the burden of the plant’s construction on consumers. The coal gasification plant has faced a number of delays and cost overruns over the last seven years it has been under construction.
Because of the low cost of natural gas compared to coal in the USA, the state utility commission wants the Kemper facility to burn non-coal derived natural gas indefinitely.
In May, Mississippi Power, the Southern Company subsidiary that operates the plant, asked the commission to increase electricity consumers’ rates to make up for the higher costs of building the coal portion of the plant. The commission said that any settlement presented to the regulators should remove risk from ratepayers for the lignite coal gasifier and related assets, including “no rate increase to Mississippi Power Company customers.” It added that any settlement to “allow only” the operation of the natural gas facility at the Kemper Project.