Regulators on Tuesday ordered Mississippi Power Co. to lower rates later this month and plan for customer refunds by November.
In issuing the order, the Mississippi Public Service Commission voted 3-0 to comply with a state Supreme Court order that found illegal a 2013 rate increase for the $6.2 billion Kemper County plant.
The unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. must roll back the 18 percent increase starting with the August billing cycle, which begins July 20. A residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month in electricity would see monthly bills fall to $121 from $144 currently. The average residential customer uses more power than that, and thus pays more.
With interest, about $350 million is due to the company’s 186,000 customers from Meridian to the Gulf Coast. Mississippi Power lawyer Ben Stone told commissioners Tuesday that a 1,000 kwh-a-month residential customer is due between $500 and $600.
Hattiesburg oilman Tommy Blanton, who’s running for the southern district PSC seat as a Democrat and brought the lawsuit, said he was pleased.
“This money was taken without authorization of law, it’s being held without authorization of law,” Blanton said. “My mother taught me that’s stealing.”
Commissioners ordered Mississippi Power to submit a refund plan within 14 days, giving customers a choice to either get a one-time check, or credits against future bills. Commissioners said they would vote on the refund plan on Aug. 6.
“Mississippi Power believes the safest and quickest method is by providing bill credits,” spokesman Jeff Shepard said in a statement. “This is safer than mailing checks to customers. If checks are issued it could take months for those to be verified, processed and mailed to customers.”
Ben Stone, an attorney with Mississippi Power Company,
Ben Stone, an attorney with Mississippi Power Company, responds to a question by the Mississippi Public Service Commissioners, Tuesday, July 7, 2015 in Jackson, Miss. The commission voted 3-0 to comply with a state Supreme Court order that found illegal the 2013 rate increase for the $6.2 billion plant. The power company is to develop a refund plan by November for customers who want them. Commissioners say they’ll vote on a refund plan in August. (Photo: Rogelio V. Solis/A)
Tuesday’s order mandates that the plan provide for checks within 90 days. The company has already paid back a roughly $300 million deposit to the South Mississippi Electric Power Association after SMEPA dropped plans to buy a share of the Kemper plant.