In a recent meeting with Ed Holland, president and CEO of Mississippi Power, we discussed Mississippi’s energy future and how it will impact people and businesses in the Magnolia State.
Ed is fairly new to the job, but he said he has “fallen in love” with Mississippi since moving here a few months ago.
“I’ve never lived any place where I was made to feel more at home,” he said.
A Florida native, he grew up working in his father’s charter boat business and learned the meaning and value of hard work. After graduating from Auburn University, he went on to law school at the University of Virginia. He married during law school, and he and his wife are proud of their 2 daughters who are active in their careers.
Ed began his career in energy with Gulf Power, and ended up serving as General Counsel for the company from and following that, he became Vice President of Generation and Transmission, “and believe me, in that job, I learned a great deal about the energy business”, he said.
In 1997, he went to Savannah Electric as CEO and ran that operation until 2001, when he became General Counsel for the Southern Company, a position he held until 2013, when he was appointed CEO of Mississippi Power.
Mississippi Power was founded in 1925, and today serves 186,000 customers directly, but more than 400,000 through providing power and services to other wholesale and co-ops. The company has over 1,300 employees, making it one of Mississippi’s larger companies. Ed sees a bright future for Mississippi Power and the state of Mississippi.
Ed is high on the Kemper project currently under construction, for a number of reasons.
“First, we haven’t added a base load plant in over 30 years,” he said. “Frankly, we need the capacity, and we are committed to providing safe, clean, reliable and affordable energy to our customers.”
Ed said that one key reason for building Kemper is that it will allow the company to retire 2-3 other plants that do not produce the clean energy that Kemper will deliver. “That’s a real benefit for the state,” he suggested.
While he was candid about the cost overruns and delays that the Kemper project has encountered, he pointed out that Mississippi Power is committed to a policy of not passing on any of those added costs to its customers. “We will hold the line on the rate increases approved by the PSC, and we are prepared to swallow any overages,” he said.
What are some of the advantages of the technology that will be employed at Kemper?
“Well, it will definitely reduce pollution,” he said. “Kemper will have roughly the same carbon footprint as a natural gas plant, but it holds the advantage of allowing us to avoid pricing volatility that is inevitable in the natural gas market, since we will own the coal resources to drive the plant.”
Asked about the current comparisons, he suggested that he expects Kemper to generate energy at a cost of between 1.25 and 1.50/m BTU, whereas gas is currently in the 3.80 range.
“Energy security is very important to our country,” he said. “We need a clean and diverse energy industry if our nation has any hope to be energy independent. That means using all the arrows in our quivers, including natural gas, coal, oil, and nuclear. It’s dangerous to be overly reliant on any single source.”
He indicated that the technology in play at Kemper has been in development and use by the Southern Company for 20 years, so as Ed sees it, “this is a proven product.” In addition to producing clean energy, he also pointed out that Kemper will use waste water from the city of meridian to cool the plant. “That’s a real benefit and added pollution control,” he said.
He mentioned that public service commissioners from around the country have made visits to Kemper in the past year, as well as energy ministers from countries around the world.
Ed acknowledged that there have been numerous misconceptions about Kemper, and indicated his mission is to correct some of those misconceptions.
The Sierra Club has been active in opposing Kemper from the beginning. From Ed’s perspective, “they’re certainly entitled to their own opinions, but not to their own facts.” He is confident that Kemper will deliver the clean and reliable energy to meet the needs of people and businesses for many years down the road.
Ed sees a bright horizon in Mississippi, pointing out the economic development boom along the Gulf Coast, the emerging trend to “onshoring” (that is, returning manufacturing from overseas to the United States). He sees a supportive and willing public sector in Mississippi that is “committed to bringing jobs and an improved quality of life to the people of this state.”
He would like to see more emphasis placed on trade and technical education in Mississippi, suggesting that some of the best paying jobs of the future will be in fields and industries requiring that level of education.
“We have had to go outside the region and country in some cases to find the talent we need,” he said. “Our preference is to hire people in our own communities.”
» Contact Mississippi Business Journal publisher Alan Turner at email@example.com or (601) 364-1021.