Opinion: A look at Mississippi’s energy rate rise

Posted on Jan 23 2018 - 8:08am by Woody Dobson

Although once deemed an unstable energy state, Mississippi currently looks to implement drastic changes in 2018. Mississippiā€™s Public Service Commission voted to approve rate changes for the stateā€™s two largest privately owned energy companies last Tuesday, and energy prices are officially rising.

Entergy Corporation and Mississippi Power will implement the rate changes this coming February as the high costs of fuel consumption damage Mississippiā€™s energy sector. The Magnolia State must now handle this unique predicament of rising energy costs.

Besides just being an increased expense for Mississippians, this rising cost means a major change in how power is currently generated. The installation of upgraded meters, electricity conduits and many other utility devices will deepen many citizensā€™ interests in power consumption.

Modernization of energy grids through upgrading utility infrastructure is currently required in many Southern states. However, this statewide move could invoke long-term repercussions if not evaluated thoroughly, and altering the status-quo of energy affairs ā€“ as Entergy and Mississippi Power are now doing ā€“ must be handled properly.

Mississippiā€™s dependence on fossil fuels is linked to many conservative initiatives like the Kemper Project. The $7.5 billion Kemper County coal-gasification power plant was the centerpiece of a decades-old energy policy until the plantā€™s controversial conversion to natural gas in 2017.

Coal and other non-renewables, although efficient, are major roadblocks to Mississippiā€™s new energy legislation.

In 2010, Mississippians began integrating innovative power technology to challenge fossil fuel reliance. This move consequently disrupted power-related endeavors and various infrastructure projects that Mississippians were previously accustomed to.

Renewable energy sources like solar power, natural gas and wind power, which first appeared in Mississippi in 2010, could change the stateā€™s route away from a costly dependency. However, the organizers of renewable energy initiatives must competently ā€œdig in their heelsā€ by using temporary rate increases to fund projects that will pay off in the long-term.

Luckily, energy policymakers seem to think the same thing. The Mississippi Public Service Commission has now moved the state toward exponential growth in renewable energy under the North Mississippi Public Service Commissioner Brandon Presleyā€™s guidance. Though Presleyā€™s mind is geared toward radical change in energy policy, some Mississippians disregard the commissionerā€™s insight toward a cheaper and more efficient future.
Thinking ahead, the question Mississippians must ask is: Will the temporary utility increases due to electrical infrastructure be short-lived? Most definitely, if Mississippi models Presley and other out-of-the-box thinkers while carefully working with the existing non-renewable energy policy.

For example, the 52-megawatt solar farm being constructed near Hattiesburg presents the solution for curbing dangerous and wasteful projects like the Kemper County plant. The money this single project will save will be significant and useful to Mississippi, with its other exhausting and costly policy issues.

Mississippi must decide a logical route for handling the current rate increases and additional changes to power legislation in the future. If not, the state will be wedged forever into the stone age of non-renewable energy production while more privileged states soar.

Gradually incorporating solar power farms, wind farms and natural gas plants is a tangible trump-card for the Mississippi grid. I challenge readers to take a gander at Mississippiā€™s energy situation and accept the temporary rise in energy rates in exchange for long-term societal progress.

Woody Dobson is a senior political science major from Tupelo.