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Electric utilities ask higher rates on Mississippi customers

Mississippi’s two privately owned electric utilities are asking regulators to make customers pay more next year.

Entergy Mississippi’s request would boost rates for a yardstick residential customer from $104 a month to $114 a month, beginning in February, to pay for fuel costs.

Mississippi Power Co. requests to boost monthly rates for a yardstick residential customer from $126 a month to $137 a month. The unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co., would get about $39 million to cover higher fuel costs, and about $38 million in higher basic rates.

Both companies ask the Mississippi Public Service Commission to adjust fuel costs at the beginning of every year, estimating the upcoming year and accounting for missed estimates from the previous year. Utilities pass fuel costs to customers but aren’t supposed to profit. This year, for example, rebounding natural gas costs led to rate increases at both companies.

Commissioners are likely to vote on the proposals early next year, as they also decide how much Mississippi Power Co.’s 187,000 customers should pay for a power plant in Kemper County. Mississippi Power President Anthony Wilson said the base-rate increase and the Kemper decision are mostly unrelated. Southern has agreed to write off $6 billion of Kemper’s $7.5 billion cost, but Mississippi Power and regulators are arguing over who pays for about $250 million spent on the natural gas-burning part of the plant.

Entergy said it underestimated fuel costs by $62 million and needs to recover that money. Spokesman Joey Lee said that collecting 60 percent of money in the first five months of 2018 and 40 percent later would avoid an overall rate increase at the start of the summer, when air conditioner usage pushes power bills up. He said that’s because Entergy plans to ask commissioners to let Entergy collect for transmission improvements approved in 2015. Lee said Entergy doesn’t have an estimate of those costs now, but expects they wouldn’t push bills higher.

The federal government reports the yardstick residential customer nationwide paid $128.92 a month in 2017’s first eight months.


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