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  • Jun 15, 2021 10:30 am GMT
States News Service

The following information was released by the Sierra Club:

Yesterday, the Sierra Club, with assistance from Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., filed comments with the Mississippi Public Service Commission (MS PSC) in Mississippi Power's 2021 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) demonstrating the utility's IRP is not a useful document and did not incorporate stakeholder involvement as the Commission intended.

This is Mississippi Power's first IRP process under the MS PSC's new IRP rule. The IRP is a roadmap that identifies plans for Mississippi Power (owned by Southern Company) to meet future energy demand and recommends a set of resources to satisfy that need. The utility is required to include meaningful public participation to develop a resource plan that reflects the interest of stakeholders.

Mississippi Power's plan is fundamentally flawed because it relied on biased and outdated modeling when crafting its long-term energy plans, models that don't account for the current cost competitiveness of renewable energy like solar and battery storage. The plan also did not evaluate potential energy saving from energy efficiency and demand side management - where the most clean energy jobs are created and customer's lives can be improved - in any meaningful way, let alone using best practices used by other utilities.

Nor did the utility make good on the Southern Company's commitment to reach "net zero" carbon emissions by 2050. Instead of immediately saving customers money while reducing carbon emissions by retiring the uneconomic Daniel coal plant, the utility's plan opted to wait an additional six years to retire the plant. The Mississippi PSC mandated that Mississippi Power reduce its energy producing capacity by 950 MW due to the utility's excess, which unnecessarily straps customers with additional costs.

Finally, though the MS PSC intended for Mississippi Power to allow for meaningful public participation and to take stakeholder comments into account, Mississippi Power unfortunately treated the stakeholder engagement process as a mere box-checking exercise and kept much of the data and information confidential from the public.

To address these flaws, Sierra Club and Synapse made the following recommendations:

Mississippi Power should accelerate the retirement of Plant Daniel, an uneconomic coal plant that the utility currently plans to operate until 2027.

Mississippi Power should devote more funding to energy efficiency and demand-side management programs that help customers use energy more efficiently - saving money and helping the environment in the long term. Mississippi Power's commitment to low income energy efficiency programs pales in comparison to other jurisdictions with comparable high energy burdens and high poverty rates.

The Commission should revise the IRP rule to require greater transparency and opportunity for public input because utilities will not do so without a stronger mandate. Greater transparency and opportunities for public engagement would strengthen Mississippi's IRP process and center customers in the process.

Louie Miller, State Director of the Sierra Club Mississippi Chapter, issued the following statement:

"The PSC made the right decision in mandating that Mississippi Power propose a plan for how it will provide energy to customers in Mississippi, which was supposed to give Sierra Club and other interested parties a critical opportunity to constructively engage with the utility. But Mississippi Power did not show its work nor allow stakeholders to have any meaningful influence in the process.

"We hope the Commission will take our comments into consideration, and compel Mississippi Power to strengthen its IRP to protect customers' pocketbooks and the environment."

David Rogers, Southeast Deputy Regional Director for the Beyond Coal Campaign, issued the following statement:

"This IRP process was an opportunity for Southern Company to put its money where its mouth is when it comes to the Company's "net zero" carbon emissions commitment. Unfortunately, Mississippi Power's plans do not stack up to that vision and provide us with clear evidence that Southern Company is not moving fast enough to decarbonize its energy fleet."

"Mississippi Power plans to operate a coal plant that provides no economic value to customers for an extra six years. That choice alone makes no sense for a power company that claims to care about the climate. Nor does it make sense for Mississippi Power ratepayers. When you add that to Mississippi Power's lack of investment in renewable energy like solar and battery storage, you have a strong case to make that Southern Company is not making good on its promises."

"The PSC has a critical opportunity to send Mississippi Power back to the drawing board to produce a long-term energy plan that saves customers money and takes seriously the threat of catastrophic climate change, all while preserving reliable energy for Mississippi Power customers."

About the Sierra Club

The Sierra Club is America's largest and most influential grassroots environmental organization, with more than 3.5 million members and supporters. In addition to protecting every person's right to get outdoors and access the healing power of nature, the Sierra Club works to promote clean energy, safeguard the health of our communities, protect wildlife, and preserve our remaining wild places through grassroots activism, public education, lobbying, and legal action.

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