Mississippi Power one step closer to new plant - WDAM-TV 7-News, Weather, Sports-Hattiesburg, MS

Mississippi Power one step closer to new plant

HATTIESBURG, MS (WDAM) - The Mississippi Public Service Commission has decided Mississippi Power will have to generate more electricity for its customers in the future.

This comes after a public hearing held in Jackson.

In 2010, the commission will decide whether or not to approve a $2 billion power plant in Kemper County to meet those additional power needs.

Officials with Mississippi power have said the plan would likely increase the cost of power to Mississippians 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 should 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 new plant has been opposed by several groups, including 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.

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