Mississippi power hopes to build new plant - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Mississippi power hopes to build new plant

By David McRaney - email

MOSELLE, MS (WDAM) - Officials with Mississippi Power are visiting media outlets in the Pine Belt in a bid to win support for a new power plant in Kemper County, a plan which would increase the cost of power to Mississipians for up to 10 years before eventually reducing prices.

The new plant would burn lignite, a cleaner-burning form of coal, mined from an large deposit which runs from Alabama, through Kemper County, and into Tennessee.

Officials with the company said increasing demand for energy in the state must be met, and they cannot depend on the fluctuating and often high cost of natural gas. Also, with the new restrictions being put into place by the Obama administration, refitting traditional coal plants would be costly.

Mississippi Power said it would cost approximately $1 billion to bring existing plants in Gulfport under compliance with federal air quality regulations which take effect in 2014.

The $2.2 billion Kemper plant, if approved, would be complete just as those regulations become law.

President and CEO Anthony Topazi said constructing the new plant could raise rates as much as 16 percent over the next 8 to 10 years before eventually saving customers money on their bills.

The new plant would run 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and would allow the company to generate power more cheaply before resorting to other sources during times of high demand.

The rate increase would be possible through the Baseload Act. Opponents of the act fear rates may go up even if Mississippi Power decided not to build the new plant.

Other opponents include The Sierra Club, who oppose the use of any form of coal - as it emits carbon dioxide as a byproduct.

Mississippi Power officials claim the new plant would comply with tougher restrictions on coal-burning facilities and capture 65 percent of carbon emissions - making it a cleaner option than traditional coal plants.

Topazi said coal plants being used currently by Mississippi Power create approximately 6 million tons of carbon per year, but the new plant would create 1.5 million.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission will hold a series of hearings next week in Jackson. Final approval could come as early as May 2010.

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