Mississippi Power to request rate increase

In order to meet the increasing costs of serving its customers, Mississippi Power Company is planning to file a rate increase request with the Mississippi Public Service Commission sometime in early August.

“We’re still finalizing our numbers, but our projections suggest the request will be for about a 9½ percent increase,” said Mississippi Power spokesman Kurt Brautigam. “The increase will affect all customers. For residential customers, an average monthly bill for 1000 kwH, which is currently about $80, would go up by about $7.50.

“Our costs of doing business have been rising just like those of other businesses, but we have not had an increase in retail electric rates since 1996,” Brautigam said. “During that time, the amount of electricity our customers use has increased substantially. We have had to build new generating capacity to meet that growth, and our other operating costs have also been slowly rising.”

During the past 10 years, Mississippi Power has seen its customer base increase by about 8 percent. However, overall customer usage of electricity has increased by 37 percent during the same period, and demand at peak times of the year has grown by 50 percent.

“We’ve experienced remarkable growth, and it takes sizable investments to keep the lights on for our customers,” Brautigam said. “The new generating units we brought on line this year cost nearly $400 million. We’ve also had to continually upgrade our transmission and distribution systems.”

Mississippi Power’s only rate increase since 1993 was for approximately 1 percent six years ago. This increase, if approved, would generate approximately $46 million.

“Our industry is changing, and we’ve got a responsibility to continue providing reliable, economical service to our customers,” said Brautigam. “Electricity plays such a vital role in our everyday lives. Customers are much more sophisticated and have so many more uses for electricity today. We’ve seen our residential customers increase their usage by more than 20 percent over the past ten years. Electricity is still an outstanding value, and we believe our customers will understand the necessity of this increase.”

The timing of the rate case process, which is still tentative, will take several months. Mississippi Power plans to file its request with the Public Service Commission in early August. The PSC and staff will then determine information requests and solicit public input, and public hearings will be scheduled late in the year. New rates would probably not go into effect before January, after the commission’s decision.

Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, serves more than 191,000 customers in 23 southeastern Mississippi counties.