KEMPER COUNTY — Mississippi Power Co. president/CEO Ed Day says construction of a coal-fired electricity plant in Kemper County is on schedule.
In an interview with The Associated Press, Day said yesterday that he expects Kemper County and Central Mississippi to see expanded economic benefits from the plant’s construction and operation.
Mississippi Power has two coal projects on tap. One is a $600-million upgrade of the two coal units at Plant Daniel in coastal Jackson County. The other is the lignite-coal plant in Kemper County.
The 582-megawatt plant near the Liberty community will use a process that converts coal into a synthetic gas and generates electricity with fewer emissions than existing pulverized coal power plants. The plant is expected to be in operation in 2014.
Last year, the Mississippi Public Service Commission approved the company’s proposal for the Kemper County project. Ground was broken in December. In approving the plant, the PSC set a cost cap at $2.88 billion.
“We are managing with the construction cap,” Day said. “We think we will be lower than the construction cap.”
A 2008 state law allows the cost of building the plant to be passed on to ratepayers in stages as it is being constructed.
Day said Mississippi Power is developing a rate formula to be submitted to the PSC. He said with PSC approval, the rate system could be in place in early 2012. Day said there could be a large fuel cost savings by using the coal if natural gas prices rise substantially over the next few years. About 50 percent of a ratepayer’s bill goes toward fuel costs.
Peak construction will bring 2,000 workers to the site and 300 fulltime jobs will be created once the plant is ready to begin generating power, he said.
Day said hiring local companies and people has been part of the plan for Kemper County. He said half of the 500 workers now at work are from Mississippi and 70 of those are from Kemper County. He said more are being trained. Day said Mississippi Power has programs to train qualified local high school graduates for engineering jobs at the plant.
Day said Mississippi Power also has customers for the carbon dioxide the plant will produce.
A Sierra Club legal challenge to the plant was rejected in March. It had argued the PSC approved the plan without sufficient proof the plant is needed and that customers will be charged reasonable rates for its power. The Sierra Club and other environmental groups claimed the project is dirty, expensive and unnecessary. The Sierra Club also opposed plans to pass along construction costs to ratepayers.
Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Co., serves more than 193,000 customers in 23 Southeast Mississippi counties.