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Advance Mississippi hosts energy panel for legislators

JACKSON — Advance Mississippi hosted its 2011 Energy Update panel for legislators at the Jackson Marriott hotel last week.

>> Dr. Sumesh Arora, director of strategic biomass solutions at the Mississippi Technology Alliance, said national media is recognizing Mississippi as a leader in green energy.

Approximately 100 renewable energy and energy-efficiency projects that represent a $2-billion investment in the state over the next five years are underway in Mississippi.

A number of projects are biomass-related – creating electricity from poultry waste or forestry products – and solar energy-related. Also, research is being done on capturing methane gas emitted by landfills.

“A lot of this sounds great. So why are we not doing this every day? Obviously, economics is a challenge,” Arora said.

Arora’s definition of a “green job” — “If it puts green in your pocket, it’s a green job.”

>>Mississippi Power Company’s vice president of external affairs Johnny Atherton provided updates on the progression of the clean-coal Kemper County IGCC project that is under construction.

When the plant comes online in 2014, MPC customers will see “downward pressure on the fuel component of bills for $200 to $400 million,” he said.

MPC will own the onsite mine, which will mine Mississippi lignite coal and provide locked-in fuel costs. North American Coal is contracted to run the mine.

MPC will also own the CO2 pipeline, which will transport captured carbon, that can be sold to a company such as Denbury, which uses carbon for Enhanced Oil Recovery, Atherton said.

Additionally, MPC is acting as its own general contractor at Kemper, which is not customary in power plant projects, he said. Other companies would not have the expertise to perform construction, and this development will also provide cost savings to customers, Atherton said.

Atherton did not mention how much customer bills will increase to fund the plant.

Mississippi companies such as Structural Steel Services Inc. in Meridian and Contract Fabricators Inc. in Holly Springs, along with several minority-owned businesses have obtained various contracts to work on the Kemper plant, he said.

Atherton thanked legislators for passing 2008’s Baseload Act, which made the funding of the plant possible.

>> Michael Callahan, executive vice president and CEO of the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi, addressed regulations on the radar of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and how those might affect utilities and co-ops.

Callahan believes a Republican-backed renewable energy standard measure, which would mandate that a certain amount of energy companies’ portfolios include renewable energy, will be passed by Congress.

>> Entergy Mississippi’s director of economic development John Turner spoke about the increasing need for energy generation worldwide. The forum was hosted by Advance Mississippi chairman Glenn McCullough.

Advance Mississippi is a non-profit formed in 2009 that works to strengthen Mississippi through education and advocacy programs for energy policies that foster economic growth. The group was founded in 2009 by entities including the Electric Power Associations of Mississippi, Entergy Mississippi, North American Coal Corporation, the Mississippi Economic Council and Glenn McCullough.

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