Miss. PSC slams Southern Co. subsidiary over ‘clean coal’ plant

[private]The Mississippi Public Service Commission wants to kill a “clean coal” power plant built by Mississippi Power, a Southern Co. subsidiary, that is years behind schedule and plagued by cost overruns in excess of $4 billion.

PSC members voted Wednesday to give Mississippi Power 45 days — as of July 6 — to reach a settlement on a rate plan that won’t burden the utility’s customers with the cost overruns.

There should be “no rate increase to Mississippi Power Company customers,” the commission said in a news release. “The Commission strongly encourages serious discussions leading to potential rate reduction, particularly for residential customers.”

The regulatory panel also ordered Mississippi Power to run the power plant on natural gas rather than on the experimental coal gasification process it had originally planned to use.

The move by Mississippi regulators is potentially a huge financial blow to Atlanta-based Southern Co., the parent company of Mississippi Power.

Mississippi Power began construction on the coal gasification facility in Kemper County in 2010 and was projected to finish the plant by 2014. The estimated cost was $2.9 billion when the project was approved for construction but now exceeds $7 billion.

Although the plant has been generating electricity through the use of natural gas, Mississippi Power has not been successful in getting the “clean coal” technology to work.

The Mississippi PSC’s decision stands in stark contrast to the Georgia PSC, which authorized Georgia Power, another Southern Co. subsidiary, to build two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle that have also been hindered by cost overruns and schedule delays.

Where the Mississippi regulators have already forced Southern to write off huge chunks of the Kemper County project, the Georgia PSC has allowed Georgia Power to pass along virtually all of the Vogtle cost overruns to its ratepayers.

After Mississippi regulators dropped the hammer Wednesday on Mississippi Power, the anti-nuke organization Nuclear Watch South filed a petition with the Georgia PSC demanding that the commission hold an emergency public hearing on the Vogtle overruns.

“The Public Service Commission has failed in its legal obligation to respond to a
legitimate public request in a specified timeframe,” Nuclear Watch South said, referring to earlier requests for an emergency public hearing.

“To let this situation persist is an egregious lapse of PSC oversight protection for the people of Georgia who are captive customers to Georgia Power’s profitable monopoly and who are paying almost $50 million per month for continued construction at Vogtle 3 & 4,” the petition said.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

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Tags: Kemper County coal plant , Mississippi Power , PSC , Vogtle nuclear project