Meridian Star

April 21, 2013

Electric bills to rise

By Brian Livingston /
The Meridian Star

MERIDIAN —     Just in time for those warmer months, customers with East Mississippi Electric Power Association and Mississippi Power will see an increase in their electric bills soon.

    Beginning with bills received on or after May 1, EMEPA members in Lauderdale, Clarke, and parts of Newton, Wayne and Jasper counties will see a difference of about 9.3 percent in their bills, according to EMEPA General Manager Wayne Henson. Henson said the increase is in direct response to the 15 percent rate increase granted to Mississippi Power by the Mississippi Public Service Commission in March.

    Henson said EMEPA buys wholesale power from Mississippi Power and although an initial rate increase in wholesale power prices was absorbed by EMEPA, Henson said this second increase will have to be passed on to the customer.

    "The first increase that we had from Mississippi Power Company was not passed on to our customers," said Henson. "This rate hike will add an average of about $10.80 a month per 1,000 kilowatt hours."

    Julie Boles with EMEPA said just under 24,000 customers would actually see the rate increase. Bills are also going up for Mississippi Power's 186,000 customers as well.

    According to the Associated Press, the Mississippi Public Service Commission voted in March to approve a 15 percent rate increase this year, followed by a 3 percent rate increase in 2014. The increases would allow Mississippi Power to begin paying off debt related to the plant even before it begins operations. Operations are scheduled for next year. Mississippi Power initially wanted a 21 percent rate increase.

    The plant will take lignite, a form of soft coal, crush it and turn it into a gas before burning it to generate electricity. The plant is designed to strip out carbon dioxide and other hazardous gases from the gasified lignite.

    In an August 15, 2012 article in The Meridian Star, Ed Day, president and CEO of Mississippi Power, said by adding a lignite plant to its portfolio, Mississippi Power can help keep fuel costs steady.

    "We will be part gas, part pulverized coal with environmental controls installed. We've got this portfolio of fuel and we're actually going to use that to stabilize the energy rates long-term for our customers," Day said.

    Initial responses on The Meridian Star Facebook site were indicative of a general public who for one, believe corporations should pay their own bills just as citizens do, and two, are mad they are having to take on more financial burden in a sluggish overall economy.

    One reader questioned if the rates would decrease once the debt is paid?

    "I'm quite sure they won't," the reader surmised. "It's just really sad at how ridiculous our electric bills already are. People all around are just struggling. I know my own 80-year-old grandmother is always so afraid to turn her air on in the summer. Its hard enough on people working every day, but this will really hurt the people like her on a fixed income!!"

    "They can just suck it up themselves," wrote another readers. "Leave already struggling families out of it."

    One commenter stated, however, that the rate increase was inevitable.   

    "How else are they supposed to pay for the new plant?" the commenter asked. "We all like to think companies simply absorb costs such as taxes, interest, payroll, equipment, infrastructure. But it is all in the price we pay for their product or service no matter the company. It is life."