Kemper no longer considered just a clean coal plant

Now, in a major reversal from earlier documents that authorized construction, the utility claims the first-of-its kind, $6.253 billion integrated coal gasification facility in eastern Mississippi is a “dual fuel” power plant capable of generating electricity from natural gas or synthesis gas made from lignite coal by the gasifier. It’s been running on natural gas since last August and the gasifier isn’t scheduled to go online until the first half of 2016, two years behind schedule.

“Change might not be the right word. It’s taking advantage of an opportunity,” Mississippi Power CEO Ed Holland said after last month’s hearing at the Mississippi Public Service Commission. “The opportunity is there because gas prices are much lower than anyone predicted at the time the Kemper Plant was built.

“The beauty of it is — while gas prices are low, and we don’t have the gasifier and the gas cleanup in operation — we can burn natural gas in the plant and it’s providing economical power to our customers, saving them over $15 million over the past year in fuel costs.”

Steve Wilson