Mississippi electric rates rise with natural gas prices

By Jeff Amy, Associated Press

Some power company customers in Mississippi will see higher bills in February as two private electric utilities pass along rebounding natural gas costs.


JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Some power company customers in Mississippi will see higher bills in February as two private electric utilities pass along rebounding natural gas costs.

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

Residential customers of Entergy who use 1,000 kilowatt hours monthly will see bills rise by $7 to $99.28. The rate increase is expected to raise revenues of the unit of New Orleans-based Entergy by $90 million over what it collected in 2016, Entergy attorney Shelly Mott Bass said.

Typical residential bills for Mississippi Power Co. customers will rise $6.45 per month to about $131.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports the average residential customer paid $125.70 a month for 1,000 kwh of electricity in the first 10 months of 2016.

Mississippi regulators typically look at fuel cost projections at the beginning of each year, making estimates for the upcoming year and adjusting rates to account for missed estimates from the previous year. Utilities get to pass the cost of fuel to customers, but aren't supposed to make a profit.

Natural gas prices fell from 2014 to 2016, ultimately hitting historic lows. That meant multiple rate cuts at both private utilities, because companies collected too much based on previous projections. Each cut monthly residential rates by about $20, and even after February's increases, rates at each will remain lower than in January 2016.

"Rates have been unusually suppressed for the past 12 months," Bass said.

Entergy relied on natural gas to generate 50 percent of the power it sold to Mississippi customers through the first 10 months of 2016.

Spokesman Jeff Shepard said it's the first time that Mississippi Power has asked for a fuel increase since 2009

"When fuel price is lower than expected, the cheaper cost is passed on to customers the following year," he said. "On the flipside, when fuel price is higher than expected, the difference is requested to break even."

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