According to Reuters, the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) voted 2:1 for the certificate so that Southern Co.’s smallest utility, Mississippi Power, can build the 582-megawatt plant. IGCC technology heats coal to convert it into a synthesis gas that is processed to remove numerous pollutants before being sent to a traditional combined-cycle power plant to produce electricity.
The revised PSC order was supported by the Republican PSC Chairman Leonard Bentz and Republican commissioner Lynn Posey and opposed by Democratic commissioner Brandon Presley who filed a dissenting opinion. The PSC’s 133-page revised order keeps a soft cost cap of $2.4 billion on the Kemper project and a “hard cap” of $2.8 billion, said Commission Counsel Shawn Shurden. No cost can be recovered above $2.8 billion, “prudent or not,” Shurden told the commission. Those costs however, do not include costs incurred to build the adjacent lignite mine or the pipeline to carry carbon dioxide produced by the plant.
Shurden told the local Hattiesburg American newspaper that the commission declined to reopen the case citing the earlier record and the commission’s “preference” for lignite fuel which it believed would have more price certainty than natural gas over the 40-year life of the power plant. “The majority of commissioners wrote that they favor Kemper because they don’t want Mississippi Power to become too dependent on natural gas, because the price of that fuel could rise from its current low level. They noted that independent power generators who offered to sell electricity to Mississippi Power could not offer contracts that fixed the price of natural gas over decades.”
The Kemper certificate, issued by the PSC in May 2010, was vacated last month by the Mississippi Supreme Court which ruled 9:0 that the commission failed to show evidence that the plant would benefit the utility’s customers as required by state law. The court sent the case back to the PSC which in turn issued a “temporary” certificate March 30. According to state filings, Mississippi Power has so far spent more than $1 billion on the Kemper County IGCC plant and another $109 million on the related lignite mine. Kemper is expected to begin producing power in 2014.