The Mississippi Public Service Commission on April 24 again approved the controversial Kemper County integrated gasification combined cycle power project after the state Supreme Court in March struck down a prior approval on the in-construction project.
Commissioner Leonard Bentz, chairman of the commission, said the agency continues to find, based on re-examination of the records in this proceeding, that the Kemper project is the best overall alternative to meet the identified need, which is to provide reliable energy and capacity at a low, stable-fuel price, provided by lignite, for the next several decades.
The project, which will used locally-mined lignite as a feedstock, is backed by the Mississippi Power unit of Southern Co. (NYSE: SO). Kemper County, also known as Plant Ratcliffe, is a 582-MW project that will sell CO2 byproduct into the enhanced oil recovery market.
“Fundamentally, the order today has not changed from the previous order and decision of the commission to approve the IGCC Kemper Plant. What we did today was clarify our original decision, as requested by the Supreme Court. They asked us for more detail, and we gave it today,” Bentz said. “If for some reason this plant doesn’t work or does not perform as advertised, the ratepayer will not be responsible. It is imperative to note, as defined in the order on page 108, the operational costs and performance parameters assure that the ratepayers will not pay for an underperforming asset.”
Any rate impacts projected at this time are purely estimations and are still subject to commission ratemaking proceedings. The estimates filed and expert testimony show that the estimated impact of the Kemper project on rates would not be the 45% that has been erroneously touted by the Sierra Club and others, Bentz said.
“Anyone who is quoting a 45% increase is playing with the facts,” he added. “Early on, the Sierra Club and some media outlets claimed that Kemper would lead to a 45% increase in rates. As stated in the order, the commission and legal staff can find no support for that anywhere in the filed documents or record. This information can be found beginning on page 121 of the order. It is a public document, so anyone can see for themselves.”