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Day: Mississippi Power looking to balance energy sources

GULFPORT — Mississippi Power Co. is investing some $3 billion in projects aimed at balancing its energy-source mix, a strategy that president and CEO Ed Day said promises to stabilize prices in the long term and attract new industry to the area.

“Thirty percent of the market for coal is the U.S., and we’re not saying it should all be coal but we ought to be investing in research and technology to have it as an option,” Day said during a recent visit with The Mississippi Press editorial board. “You need a little bit of coal, a little bit of gas and a little bit of renewable energy.

“That kind of portfolio stabilizes your energy, and thereby you’ve got a good chance for your economy to grow.”

Mississippi Power has two coal-oriented projects on tap — a $600-million upgrade of the two coal units at Plant Daniel in Jackson County, and the $2.4-billion lignite-coal plant in Kemper County.

Chevron is one of Mississippi Power’s largest customers, and Day said he believes decisions such as the one to implement a $1.4 billion expansion were at least in part based on power-source availability.

“We’re pro-business in trying to attract industry into our state, and if we can paint the picture that we’ve got more predictable energy supply we can get companies to say I’m going to put XYZ expansion here, or attract aerospace or some other entity to a project-ready site,” Day said.

With Entergy Mississippi having the market pretty much cornered in nuclear-generated power, Mississippi Power has no plans to invest in that, Day said.

The company believes its new coal-gasification plant in Kemper County will satisfy existing need and then some.

Residential and commercial customer numbers are down since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, but usage is up, Day said, resulting in about 1 percent growth. Thanks to expansions like Chevron’s, industrial business is seeing “robust” growth.

Mississippi Public Service Commission approved the company’s proposal for the Kemper plant last year, and ground was broken in December.

The cost of the plant will be passed on to ratepayers in stages while the project is being built — a result of a law the Mississippi Legislature passed in 2008.

Kemper County, in eastern Mississippi, is expected to be complete in 2014. Day said that hiring local companies and people is a big focus for the company. Moss Point’s DZ Atlantic landed an $8 million contract to provide pipeline for it, for example, and more than 200 of the 450 people on site so far are native Mississippians, Day said.

When the project comes online, there will be 260 full-time jobs, and the company has implemented programs to train qualified local high-school graduates for engineering jobs at the plant, Day said.

Closer to home at Plant Daniel in Jackson County, Mississippi Power is waiting for the Environmental Protection Agency to establish final rules before it starts in earnest on a $600 million project to reduce emissions in its two coal-powered units.

The plant has four generation units — two fed by coal and two fed by natural gas. The two coal units supply about 20 percent of the company’s customers.

The rules the EPA proposed this past spring were far more onerous than the industry anticipated, and Mississippi Power is working with congressional delegates and others in the industry to reach some common ground.

The investment is necessary to comply with impending changes to federal environmental regulations and the Clean Air Act that will take effect in 2015, company representatives said.

The scrubber will remove up to 95 percent of sulfur dioxide and other emissions from flue gas by mixing it with water and limestone.

The resulting commercial-grade calcium sulfate gypsum is set to be sold in wallboard, cement and as an additive for soil that increases root mass and reduces soil erosion.

Source: Mississippi Press


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