Southern Co. pulls the plug on Mississippi coal plant; what happens to Vogtle?

[private]Atlanta-based Southern Co. finally pulled the plug on one of its biggest money losers: a power plant in Mississippi that was supposed to operate through an experimental coal-gasification technology.

Mississippi Power, a Southern Co. subsidiary, announced Wednesday it would terminate its efforts to complete the plant in Kemper County as originally planned. Instead, the facility will be powered by natural gas.

The utility giant has already been forced to write off $3.1 billion in construction costs on the Kemper plant and could potentially have to eat another $3.4 billion, depending upon how the Mississippi Public Service Commission decides a pending rate case.

The Kemper plant was originally projected to cost $2.9 billion and be in operation by 2014. The facility has never been able to successfully operate as a “clean coal” plant and has run up more than $4 billion in cost overruns.

Southern Co. CEO Tom Fanning said in a statement that the decision to stop work on the coal-gasification project “is in the best interests of our employees, customers, investors and all other stakeholders.”

The utility holding company’s decision to abandon the Kemper plant raises questions about what will happen with another project that has been plagued by cost overruns and schedule delays: Georgia Power’s plan to build two nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle.

The primary contractor on Vogtle, Westinghouse Electric, filed for bankruptcy in March because of heavy financial losses on the project. Georgia Power has already announced it will take over the construction management.

The Georgia PSC will be facing an important decision in August, when Georgia Power says it will finalize a report on the cost to complete the Vogtle project.

© 2017 by The Georgia Report

Tags: Georgia PSC , Mississippi Power project , Plant Vogtle , Southern Co.