Mississippi PSC to consider allowing customers to generate renewable energy, reduce bills

 Public Service Commissioners, from left, Steve Renfroe, Lynn Posey and Brandon Presley will take up net metering.
ROGELIO V. SOLIS/ASSOCIATED PRESS Public Service Commissioners, from left, Steve Renfroe, Lynn Posey and Brandon Presley will take up net metering. AP

The Mississippi Public Service Commission will hold a hearing on its net metering proposal Tuesday in Jackson and it also might discuss a motion that calls for one commissioner to bow out of the Mississippi Power rate case.

The proposed rule would allow consumers to generate their own renewable energy through methods such as solar power and potentially reduce their energy bills by selling excess power back to their utilities, the PSC said in a news release.

Since 2011, the PSC has been investigating and assessing net metering issues. It has received about 200 comments from the public, the PSC said in a press release.

"The commissioners will consider all submitted comments and public statements and will decide whether to adopt a rule," said Katherine Collier, executive director for the PSC.

The Commission also likely will discuss the recusal motion in the Mississippi Power rate case.

Thomas Blanton, a Democratic candidate for the PSC seat being vacated by Southern District Commissioner Steve Renfroe, has filed a motion in his challenge to a Mississippi Power rate increase to have Central District Commissioner Lynn Posey recuse himself in that case.

Blanton's motion says Posey, who isn't running for re-election, received campaign contributions from companies that have contracted with Mississippi Power to do work at its Kemper power plant.

Posey didn't return messages seeking comment, but Renfroe said he doesn't see a reason for Posey to step aside.

"I haven't talked to him but I know he understands the campaign finance rules," said Renfroe. He said while the law bars PSC candidates from taking contributions from utilities it regulates and their employees and agents, he doesn't believe contractors fall under that ban.

"Even if the Commission were to conclude that there was no technical violation of the above statute, Commissioner Posey must recuse himself," Blanton's motion said. "His conflict of interest was no less significant."

It said the contributors "had a direct and continuing interest in continued financing of the Kemper IGCC project."

The Supreme Court upheld Blanton's challenge to an 18-percent rate increase granted to help finance the project. Mississippi Power then received a temporary emergency 18-percent rate increase and Blanton challenged that also. Later this year, the PSC will decide whether to make that increase permanent.

Posey and Renfroe voted for the emergency rate increase. Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley voted against it.

Blanton faces Republican Sam Britton in the Nov. 3 election.

"It is my opinion, and in light of the recent Supreme Court ruling, any rate increase should be considered only after public and transparent prudency hearings have been held to determine if Kemper is in fact functioning at the level of performance as it was presented to the ratepayers," Britton said. "While Mississippi Power Company is experiencing financial difficulties as a result of their mistakes in the planning and implementation of this project, that in of itself does not entitle the company to a rate increase. Therefore, I am opposed to passing this rate increase on to the customers."