Southwest Mississippi EPA to raise power rates

Published 12:00 am Friday, April 20, 2001

Customers of Southwest Mississippi Electric Power Association can expect a 7.6 percent increase in their power bills beginning May 1.

The increase – which comes to about $5.54 more a month for the average residential customer – will help cover the cost of a $21.9 million work plan spanning the last four years.

Percy McCaa, Southwest Mississippi EPA general manager, said the work plan is aimed at improving the system’s service reliability.

Work planned for this year includes upgrading substations to double their current capacity while rephasing and reconducting numerous power lines. Each of the two substations built costs more than $800,000, according to a company press release.

McCaa said the increase is the first &uot;real&uot; increase since 1984, when Southwest Mississippi EPA last adjusted the charge per kilowatt hour. After May 1, the charge per kilowatt hour will average 7.87 cents.

Customers’ bills do fluctuate over time due to changes in the wholesale price of fuel, which Southwest Mississippi EPA purchases from a pool of providers, McCaa said.

McCaa said they rely partially on natural gas, but also use nuclear power, coal and fuel oil to produce electricity.

&uot;That can increase and decrease, and it has many times over the years,&uot; he said.

And in February 1998, the company instituted an average 5.5 percent increase in the customer charge. But it’s the KWH charge that Southwest Mississippi EPA uses to cover the cost of equipment and right-of-way maintenance, as well as servicing the company’s $13 million project debt.

McCaa said they have been aggressive with right-of-way maintenance in recent years, because most power outages are the result of fallen tree limbs or debris.

The rate increase will vary depending on the type of use, whether commercial, industrial or residential, with residential customers experiencing the highest increase of 7.6 percent.

&uot;Because that’s our main cost; that’s where we spend most of our money,&uot; McCaa said.

Based in Lorman, Southwest Mississippi EPA also serves Amite, Claiborne, Copiah, Franklin, Hinds, Jefferson, Lincoln and Wilkinson counties.