In a filing with stock regulators this week, corporate parent Southern Company told investors it will need to redesign and replace a key piece of gear at Kemper in part because of those coal ash issues. That process is likely to take up to two years and cost another $164 million, though the company says it will get the plant up and running while the engineering work proceeds. Ratepayers are on the hook for about $2.9 billion of the cost and have already seen a 15 percent hike in their power bills.
Schlissel said the company launched the project using technology that hadn’t been tested at industrial scale and ignored the risks.
“The history has been that those technologies have more problems than you expect, cost a lot more than you expect, to build take a lot longer to build and then have startup problems. That’s been the history of just about any technology,” he said.
Mississippi Power representatives didn’t respond to requests for comment. In a statement announcing the latest delay, it said the plant “has primarily been using natural gas as fuel, but has also been using syngas from the project’s gasifiers during testing and operation at periods throughout the year.”
Since Southern also is struggling to complete a nuclear power project in Georgia that’s years late and billions over budget, some stock analysts have suggested the Atlanta-based utility conglomerate would be better off to just keep burning natural gas at Kemper.