- Associated Press - Thursday, September 4, 2014

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) - Southern Co. says it will cost at least another $30 million to finish the power plant it’s building in eastern Mississippi’s Kemper County, pushing the total cost to nearly $5.6 billion.

The Atlanta-based parent of Mississippi Power Co. said the additional money will pay for material and labor during the plant’s startup phase, including contract workers to help test equipment and systems.

Mississippi Power said it, and not its 186,000 customers from Meridian to the Gulf Coast, will pay the additional money.

Customers are already paying 18 percent higher rates for Kemper. Mississippi Power has said it’s likely to seek an additional increase of at least 4 percent over 20 years to pay off $1 billion in bonds that the Legislature is allowing the company to issue as part of the settlement.

The plant and associated lignite coal mine were originally supposed to cost $2.8 billion.

The utility is on track to absorb $1.6 billion in cost overruns, as well as $133 million in federal tax credits that the company is forgoing.

Spokesman Jeff Shepard wrote in an email that materials the company will have to buy range from “wire and cable to scaffolding.”

“During startup and commissioning, we are testing numerous pieces of equipment and systems for what could be long periods of time,” he wrote. “We will need additional operators on shift to ensure that we are covered across all the systems we are testing.”

Last month, Mississippi Power put three power generating turbines into commercial operation burning natural gas piped to the east Mississippi plant, even as Mississippi Power works complete parts of the plant that will turn lignite coal into synthetic gas. The entire operation, which Mississippi Power calls Plant Ratcliffe, is scheduled to be completed before the end of June 2015.

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