Entergy Mississippi proposes plan to power state’s future

Published 1:09 am Sunday, March 2, 2008

NATCHEZ — Legislation being considered by the Mississippi Legislature will help electric utility customers save money and address a pressing need for clean, affordable power, says a local representative of Entergy Mississippi, Inc.

“For generations, Mississippians have enjoyed the comforts and conveniences of affordable electricity,” said Stephen Caruthers, customer service manager for Entergy Mississippi in Natchez. “But the world is rapidly changing. And so is the availability — and affordability — of electrical power.

“Families are enjoying more electrical products such as large-screen televisions and computers, and new and expanding businesses are requiring much more energy to power their equipment,” he said. “Combine that with rising prices on natural gas, which is used to produce more than half of the electricity in Mississippi, and environmental issues such as global warming, and you are looking at a very challenging situation.”

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According to Caruthers, those needs can be addressed by House Bill 1274 and Senate Bill 2793, which offer opportunities to build new sources of generation like a new nuclear plant or a clean coal power plant. Included are financing options that greatly reduce the overall costs of such projects.

In addition, the bills allow those costs to be spread over the planning, design and construction phases. This “pay-as-you-go” method saves customers millions in finance costs. As the law currently stands, such costs accumulate until the plant begins production. Customers assume all construction costs at once, resulting in significant increases in monthly bills.

Caruthers added that the bill does not grant approval for a utility to build a new plant, nor does it set or increase rates to utility customers for such plants. Rather, it authorizes the Mississippi Public Service Commission to make these decisions.

One of the options Entergy Mississippi is considering is a new nuclear facility at Grand Gulf Nuclear Station in Claiborne County.

“While we have not made a definite decision to add a new plant, an important point to remember is that it has been more than 20 years since Entergy Mississippi has built a baseload generating facility — the kind that helps us meet Mississippi’s basic electrical needs,” said Caruthers. “During that time, we have worked hard to keep our base rates at mid-1980 levels. Meanwhile, our generation fleet has continued to age.”

Should Entergy Mississippi decide that a new nuclear plant is the best option for its customers; the proposed legislation paves the way for the company to capitalize on federal incentives that encourage the construction of such facilities. Similar legislation and regulations supporting new nuclear plant construction have passed or are being considered in several states, including Florida, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina and South Carolina.

“The time to act is now,” said Caruthers. “By supporting House Bill 1274 or Senate Bill 2793, we address a pressing energy need and open the door to a much brighter future for Mississippi.”

Entergy Mississippi provides electricity to more than 427,000 customers in 45 counties. It is a subsidiary of Entergy Corporation. Entergy owns and operates power plants with approximately 30,000 megawatts of electric generating capacity, and it is the second-largest nuclear generator in the United States. Entergy delivers electricity to 2.7 million utility customers in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.

Entergy has annual revenues of more than $11 billion and approximately 14,300 employees.