PSC vote delays Kemper cost review

JACKSON, MS (WLOX) - Two new developments happened Tuesday in Mississippi Power's efforts to flip the switch on its Kemper County plant. First, Mississippi Power must wait until the Kemper plant goes on line before reviewing the costs and setting the rates. And that hearing won't be until sometime next year.

While the Public Service Commission has already determined the maximum rate customers could eventually pay, the final number has not yet been determined.

That prudency presentation, originally scheduled for next month, has been tabled until the plant is operational.

"Until we have all the information, we can't decide on prudency in total," Southern District Public Service Commissioner Steve Renfroe said. "We could never do that until the plant starts up."

At next month's meeting, the commission was scheduled to examine more than $2.75 billion in Mississippi Power spending through March 31, 2013, while another hearing for remaining costs was planned after completion. Now all spending will be examined then.

Renfroe noted the PSC must ensure the plant, which will gasify coal and generate power while removing chemicals, will work properly before judging whether the unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. spent prudently.

The other issue brought up Tuesday by the PSC focused on the section of the Kemper plant that's ready for operation, the gas turbines. The commission is asking Mississippi Power for a cost/benefit analysis of that service as it relates to things like eligible tax benefits.

The Public Service Commission's next meeting is September 9. Commissioners say the delay isn't related to the settlement announced Monday between Mississippi Power and the Sierra Club.

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