Sun Herald Comment On IGCC Kemper County Coal Plant

Readers of the Sun Herald should be familiar with the controversy surrounding Mississippi Power’s expensive and highly experimental power plant in Kemper County. Designed for Integrated Gasification Combined Cycle (IGCC) power production and carbon capture and storage, the plant was touted as “clean coal” and would be the first in the world of its kind.

However, Mississippi Power ratepayers — whose power bills will increase 30-50 percent to pay for the Kemper plant — should note that construction has been cancelled on a similar IGCC plant in Australia, the ZeroGen plant near Rockhampton, Queensland.

After the Queensland government had invested $108 million, the company building the plant has declared bankruptcy. Queensland Deputy Premier Andrew Fraser told the Australian Broadcasting Corporation last month that the IGCC technology was simply “not financially viable.” He expressed worry that the billions of dollar slated for developing IGCC technology would be wasted.

Mississippi needs to learn from the Australians’ mistakes with their “clean coal” boondoggle. We must stop construction on the Kemper plant before ratepayers pour billions of dollars into a highly experimental IGCC process that has now been exposed as “not financially viable.”

“Clean coal” is the pipe dream of coal and utilities fat cats who have had far too much say in how Mississippi is governed. It’s time we woke them up. The Kemper IGCC project needs to end. Now.

WILL WATSON

Long Beach

Power’s High Cost Will Cost Coast Jobs

Power’s High Cost Will Cost Coast Jobs

The FACT is, higher energy prices will cost jobs in Mississippi.   Mississippi power and Southern Company often state how many jobs are being brought due to the construction of the Kemper county demonstration CO2 capturing experiment.  Construction jobs are temporary, right?  Oh, but Mississippi Power Co does promise to bring over 200 permanent jobs.  Well, La-dee-da.  Tell that to the thousands losing their jobs and businesses.  This plant is going to HURT Mississippi and America.  I am surprised we don’t hear more from those who are about to lose their jobs starting 2012.  Perhaps they think it won’t happen to them or that they will live on unemployment?  Perhaps they will lose their homes and commit crimes to make ends meet?  Or perhaps the flooding of desperate men seeking work will bring salaries down as cheaper workers replace the established ones.  I hope these scenarios are incorrect but it does seem probable.

(Source: The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.))trackingBy Mary Perez, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Feb. 8–The Public Service Commission knows this week he has to sign off on a fuel-cost adjustment requested by Mississippi Power and he knows it will mean job losses in South Mississippi.

“I believe I’ve had every single casino call me,” said Bentz, chairman of the Mississippi Public Service Commission. He said they’ve told him, “The fuel-price increase is going to make us have to lay people off.”

Mississippi Power has requested a 9.2 percent increase for residential customers. The increase is higher for commercial and industrial customers because fuel costs make up a larger portion of their bills.

For Northrop Grumman it could mean an increase of $2 million this year. Beau Rivage Resort and Casino faces a $700,000 to $800,000 increase and Island View Casino around $300,000.

“Those are just some of the numbers we are hearing,” said Bentz.

He tells everyone who calls him about the increase, “If you have an idea, please give it to me.”

Bentz said, “I should have signed that order two months ago. I’ve not allowed them to put the new fuel prices in place yet.”

Business owners knew the increase was coming. In July and August representatives from Mississippi Power gave all major business customers an estimate of the increase, said company spokeswoman Cindy Webb. In November, when the utility filed for the fuel-cost adjustment, representatives went back and gave the businesses specific costs.

“It’s our annual true-up on fuel,” said Webb. It’s not the largest annual fuel adjustment. That was 10 percent in 2006. In 2008 Mississippi Power customers paid a 4 percent fuel-adjustment increase, and Webb said there were decreases in 2002 and 2003.

“It depends on the fuel markets,” she said.

Mississippi Power Company hasn’t had public hearings on fuel increases, but Bentz scheduled one for Dec. 29 in Gulfport. Only a handful of residents and business owners attended.

“It was not the best time in the world to have a hearing,” Bentz said, “but I wanted to have a public hearing anyway.” He said at the meeting the dollar-for-dollar “pass-through,” in a regulated market such as Mississippi’s, allows the utility to pass on the cost of doing business to the customer. If the company spends $100 million on fuel and is allowed a rate of return of 10 percent, the company can bill the customers for the additional $10 million.

“Mississippi Power Company can only earn what the state regulators allow them to earn,” Bentz said.

Mississippi Power uses coal and gas to operate its power plants.

Although prices are dropping now, “coal prices are still up and transportation prices are still high,” said Webb.

Mississippi Power CEO Anthony Topazi said gas was up 100 percent in 2008 and coal was at an all-time high.

“I’m spending more to provide the same amount of energy,” he said.

When the prices were steadily climbing last year, the company negotiated multi-year contracts on the futures market to lock in the cost and be assured a supply of coal and gas.

“It’s a great deal when you lock that contract price in and the prices skyrocket,” said Bentz.” It’s a horrible deal when you lock that price in and the prices go down,” as they did in this case.

Bentz said he doesn’t have the staff or the $1 million it would take to do an audit to see if the utility paid the lowest price possible for fuel.

“There needs to be a disincentive, or some type of incentive to the power company for purchasing fuel the cheapest they possibly can do it,” he said.

It won’t be just the customers who feel the pinch. Bentz said, “I told Anthony (Topazi) the other day, ‘Y’all need to put these planes on the ground,'” referring to corporate aircraft.

Bentz added, “Profit margins are not going to be what they were in the good years,” and he said, “I don’t believe bonuses are going to be paid to the amount that they’ve been paid.”

Webb said Mississippi Power has a hiring freeze and, “we are doing everything we can to control costs. We’re looking at the things we can do that won’t impact customer service.”

If Bentz doesn’t sign the increase, he said, the Mississippi Supreme Court would most likely overturn that decision and grant it anyway, as the court has done in the past.

He can amortize the increase over 12 months or possibly two years. “When you do that, it’s just like putting it on a credit card,” he said, with the customers paying the carrying costs.

“It’s a crap shoot,” he said. “If prices keep going down it’s a great thing. But if they keep going up, you’re just compounding costs on top of each other.”

—–

To see more of The Sun Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sunherald.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

Barbour Names Virden Jones for PUS

Executive director of the Public Utilities Staff

Gov. Haley Barbour has appointed Virden Jones as executive director of the Public Utilities Staff

JACKSON, Miss. — Gov. Haley Barbour has appointed Virden Jones as executive director of the Public Utilities Staff.

Jones begins the new position immediately and must be confirmed by the Senate.

The Public Utilities Staff works with the Public Service Commission to represent the interests of ratepayers, utilities, state agencies and the broad public interests of the state of Mississippi.

Jones has worked as director of the Electric, Gas and Communications Division at the Public Utilities Staff since 1999. He joined the agency a year earlier as financial modeling manager. As director, he oversaw rate reviews and fuel audits across utility sectors.

Jones, a certified public accountant, previously worked as chief financial officer at Pay Telephone American Inc. and as a registered representative at Morgan Keegan & Co.

Jones named PUS executive director – Regional Wire – SunHerald.com.

Power’s High Price Will Cost Jobs PSC LEONARD BENTZ:

PSC COMMISSIONER LEONARD BENTZ: Power’s High Cost Will Cost Coast Jobs

Sunday, February 08, 2009 12:53 PM

(Source: The Sun Herald (Biloxi, Miss.) tracking By Mary Perez, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Feb. 8–Leonard Bentz knows this week he has to sign off on a fuel-cost adjustment requested by Mississippi Power and he knows it will mean job losses in South Mississippi.

“I believe I’ve had every single casino call me,” said Bentz, chairman of the Mississippi Public Service Commission. He said they’ve told him, “The fuel-price increase is going to make us have to lay people off.”

Mississippi Power has requested a 9.2 percent increase for residential customers. The increase is higher for commercial and industrial customers because fuel costs make up a larger portion of their bills.

For Northrop Grumman it could mean an increase of $2 million this year. Beau Rivage Resort and Casino faces a $700,000 to $800,000 increase and Island View Casino around $300,000.

“Those are just some of the numbers we are hearing,” said Bentz.

He tells everyone who calls him about the increase, “If you have an idea, please give it to me.”

Bentz said, “I should have signed that order two months ago. I’ve not allowed them to put the new fuel prices in place yet.”

Business owners knew the increase was coming. In July and August representatives from Mississippi Power gave all major business customers an estimate of the increase, said company spokeswoman Cindy Webb.  (I strongly question the effectiveness of this communication, for I have asked multiple Business owners and members of Chamber and rarely did one say, “oh yes I heard about it.”  And no one said MS power told me.)  In November, when the utility filed for the fuel-cost adjustment, representatives went back and gave the businesses specific costs.

“It’s our annual true-up on fuel,” said Webb. It’s not the largest annual fuel adjustment. That was 10 percent in 2006. In 2008 Mississippi Power customers paid a 4 percent fuel-adjustment increase, and Webb said there were decreases in 2002 and 2003.

“It depends on the fuel markets,” she said.

Mississippi Power Company hasn’t had public hearings on fuel increases, but Bentz scheduled one for Dec. 29 in Gulfport. Only a handful of residents and business owners attended. (that is because no one knew about the meeting.  Bentz cares more about his no call list than a change that will affect the homes of every Mississippian.)“It was not the best time in the world to have a hearing,” Bentz said, “but I wanted to have a public hearing anyway.” He said at the meeting the dollar-for-dollar “pass-through,” in a regulated market such as Mississippi’s, allows the utility to pass on the cost of doing business to the customer. If the company spends $100 million on fuel and is allowed a rate of return of 10 percent, the company can bill the customers for the additional $10 million.

“Mississippi Power Company can only earn what the state regulators allow them to earn,” Bentz said.

Mississippi Power uses coal and gas to operate its power plants.

Mississippi Power CEO Anthony Topazi said gas was up 100 percent in 2008 and coal was at an all-time high.

“I’m spending more to provide the same amount of energy,” he said.

When the prices were steadily climbing last year, the company negotiated multi-year contracts on the futures market to lock in the cost and be assured a supply of coal and gas.

“It’s a great deal when you lock that contract price in and the prices skyrocket,” said Bentz.” It’s a horrible deal when you lock that price in and the prices go down,” as they did in this case.

Bentz said he doesn’t have the staff or the $1 million it would take to do an audit to see if the utility paid the lowest price possible for fuel.

“There needs to be a disincentive, or some type of incentive to the power company for purchasing fuel the cheapest they possibly can do it,” he said.

It won’t be just the customers who feel the pinch. Bentz said, “I told Anthony (Topazi) the other day, ‘Y’all need to put these planes on the ground,'” referring to corporate aircraft.

Bentz added, “Profitmargins are not going to be what they were in the good years,” and he said, “I don’t believe bonuses are going to be paid to the amount that they’ve been paid.”

Webb said Mississippi Power has a hiring freeze and, “we are doing everything we can to control costs. We’re looking at the things we can do that won’t impact customerservice.”

If Bentz doesn’t sign the increase, he said, the Mississippi Supreme Court would most likely overturn that decision and grant it anyway, as the court has done in the past.

He can amortize the increase over 12 months or possibly two years. “When you do that, it’s just like putting it on a credit card,” he said, with the customers paying the carrying costs.

“It’s a crap shoot,” he said. “If prices keep going down it’s a great thing. But if they keep going up, you’re just compounding costs on top of each other.”

—–

To see more of The Sun Herald, or to subscribe to the newspaper, go to http://www.sunherald.com.

Copyright (c) 2009, The Sun Herald, Biloxi, Miss.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

For reprints, email tmsreprints@permissionsgroup.com, call 800-374-7985 or 847-635-6550, send a fax to 847-635-6968, or write to The Permissions Group Inc., 1247 Milwaukee Ave., Suite 303, Glenview, IL 60025, USA.

NYSE:NOC,

A service of YellowBrix, Inc.

via PSC COMMISSIONER LEONARD BENTZ: Power’s High Cost Will Cost Coast Jobs.

Mississippi Coal Comments are in Red and added for commentary

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