I’ll bet there are some people reading this who lived part of their lives with no electricity in their homes. At the least, they knew someone who did. Electricity was a very big deal when it first came to Mississippi, and it still is a big deal. The wonder of having lights on 24 hours a day hasn’t been around that long when you look at human history. But, we have sure gotten used to it.
One group that’s been responsible for making sure that we have reliable, affordable electricity in our houses and businesses for over 100 years is Mississippi Power Co. I believe the company’s desire to provide a source of reliable energy to Mississippians now and in the future is why it worked to develop the new technology of coal gasification at the Kemper facility. It has been a costly effort for the company, which will absorb at least $6.5 billion it spent to try to achieve its goals. Not only has it cost the company financially, it has taken hits in public opinion. That’s not fair.
As a Labor leader, I think we need to recognize that hundreds of Mississippi workers and their families benefited from the construction jobs at Kemper. Supply businesses, contractors and other operations connected to the project realized economic benefits. I believe that this project, no matter its final disposition, has benefited the Mississippi economy.
That said, I think Mississippi ratepayers should only have to pay for the cost of the actual value they receive, along with what other costs were legally and prudently associated with it. The Public Service Commission has already ruled on prudent expenditures and a small rate increase to cover these expenses.
I hope the PSC will quickly finish the settlement with Mississippi Power and put this project in the books — allowing it to produce electricity by the means most suited for it. The best outcome for ratepayers would be for their current rates to stay in place, and they should not be held liable for costs associated with the part of the project that did not work as planned.
Let’s get this behind us and move forward. I’m grateful Mississippi Power was willing to stick its necks out to the tune of $6.5 billion — most of which was returned to the state economy — and it’s time to quit bashing their effort. Mississippi Power has been a strong development partner for our state for over 100 years — let’s think about that every time we turn the lights on.
David Newell is president of Central Mississippi Building & Construction Trade Council.