EDITORIAL/Kemper coal plant viable
Wednesday, September 18, 2013 1:00 AM
Mississippi ratepayers historically have borne the cost of constructing base load electric power generating plants, and Mississippi Power's $2.4 billion Kemper County lignite coal gasification plant is no different - and, in fact, will be lower.
Former Gov. Haley Barbour said so before a group of Madison County business leaders last week in an energy policy talk.
The governor is right. Long-term, Kemper is good for Mississippi because it will produce cheaper, cleaner electricity.
Like starting up any major facility, Barbour expects some fine tuning and "bumps in the road," but believes the gasification technology is viable.
"I don't have any doubt about that. I don't have any doubt about that at all," he said.
When industries consider Mississippi in 15 years, Barbour maintains about electricity, they won't be asking "What does it cost?" but rather "Can we get it?"
Kemper is part of having that abundant supply of electricity to fuel economic development as the Obama administration cracks down more and more on coal-fired plants.
Unlike volatile natural gas pricing, the cost of lignite is relatively fixed because there's no demand for the low-grade coal. Nobody wants to pay to move it. Kemper County is said to be the Saudi Arabia of lignite coal and there's $400 million worth there over 40 years, Barbour says.
As for rates, the PSC earlier this year approved a 15-percent rate increase for Mississippi Power Co., and the commission has promised another 3-percent increase next year to help the company cover costs for the Kemper County plant. The company also says it will need another 4-percent increase to pay off nearly $1 billion in bonds for the project.
Altogether, those changes would be a 22-percent increase for Mississippi Power customers, who are in the southern part of the state - far less than the 54 percent Entergy charged for Grand Gulf in the 1980s or Mississippi Power's 34 percent for Plant Daniel.
Naysayers claim rates will shoot up 60 percent, but they have presented no evidence to back up those claims
Barbour challenged the notion that cost overruns will be borne by ratepayers when Southern Company, parent company of Mississippi Power, has said its shareholders will eat those costs.
We dismiss Barbour critics who say he's doing Mississippi Power's bidding because his lobbying firm represents Southern Company.
Facts are facts and we believe Barbour's. He's an intelligent man and he isn't going to stake his reputation now on a boondoggle.
It's a shame Kemper has become so politicized and the liberals have turned on a "green project" that is so good for Mississippi.