Entergy and Mississippi Power bills fall on lower fuel costs

mississippi power elp

JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Customers of Mississippi's two private electric utilities will see lower bills in February, but regulators will re-examine natural gas costs to see if bills should fall further.

The Mississippi Public Service Commission voted Tuesday to approve lower fuel costs for both Entergy Mississippi and Mississippi Power Co.

Bills for customers of the unit of New Orleans-based Entergy Corp. will fall $88 million overall. Residential customers who use 1,000 kWh monthly will see bills fall by almost $7, from $100 in January to $93 in February. Most of that decrease stems from lower natural gas prices, although some other adjustments were also factored into the Entergy changes.

Mississippi Power will collect $117 million less for fuel costs. Combined with a decrease in rates paying for part of the $6.5 billion Kemper County power plant, typical residential bills will fall to $125 a month from $144.

Entergy has 442,000 customers in the western half of the state, while Mississippi Power has 186,000 customers from Meridian to the Gulf Coast.

The commission, at the behest of the Public Utilities Staff, ordered both utilities to submit fresh projections, though, in addition to the mandated once-a-year filing.

Mississippi Power spokesman Jeff Shephard said natural gas costs fell during the warm December, meaning the companies are already overcollecting from the projections filed in November. Part of the decreases approved Tuesday stem from amounts utilities collected last year that overshot falling gas costs. Under state law, utilities get to recover their fuel costs, but aren't supposed to make a profit.

"The market has dropped since then, so we want them to update the projections," said Brandi Myrick of the Public Utilities Staff. It's possible the staff could recommend that the commission cut fuel tariffs further.

Myrick said that Entergy and Mississippi Power projected different levels for gas prices, and the staff was hoping that new projections might line up better. Both companies contract in advance for some natural gas, but buy some on the spot market.

Entergy once submitted quarterly adjustments for fuel costs, but in 2013 it changed to yearly projections at the request of the staff, to cut down on paperwork. Since then, though, Entergy has filed mid-year changes because its projections of volatile gas prices missed the mark.

"They have just wanted more information about our support for the gas projections," said Shelly Bass, regulatory counsel for Entergy Mississippi. "We are very willing to make any adjustment that seems necessary."

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