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UPDATED: Kemper completion pushed back to end of year

MBJ staff and wire


Mississippi Power Co. says it won’t complete its Kemper County power plant until the end of the year, a delay of a month that pushes the price tag up by $25 million, to nearly $7 billion.

The company announced the delay Friday as its Atlanta-based parent Southern Co. filed quarterly stock disclosures, saying ratepayers wouldn’t have to pay the $25 million.

It came a few days after Southern Co. President and Chief Executive assured analysts in a webcast that the runup to full commercial production has worked well. Southern is the parent of Mississippi Power.

“As we’ve moved through the startup process, as we knock down over these dominoes that you normally expect  the thing has run beautifully.”

“This plant is gonna work,” he said.

The documents show that if the coal-fueled plant doesn’t start commercial operation by Dec. 31, Mississippi Power would have to repay $250 million of previously received tax benefits. Mississippi Power spokesman Jeff Shepard didn’t immediately respond to questions about the potential repayment.

The plant and associated coal mine were originally supposed to cost $2.9 billion at most, and earliest estimates were lower. Stockholders have absorbed $2.6 billion in losses, while customers could be asked to pay more than $4.2 billion.

The plant has been making power using natural gas since 2014 and made electricity by burning synthetic gas for the first time last month.

In December, the Mississippi Public Service commission agreed to let Mississippi Power raise rates on its 186,000 customers by $126 million a year to pay for $1.1 billion worth of Kemper equipment already generating electricity by burning conventional natural gas.

Mississippi Power has lost $222 million on Kemper this year alone, far outweighing the $40 million profit the company has posted.


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