Kemper Coal Plant Prepares for Operation

Mississippi Power is looking for ways to make a positive economic impact as the Kemper Coal Plant is slowly nearing its finish line.
The facility is now in the process of testing its equipment. And coal engineers say as they begin, they're doing their best to hire locally.

"We sign long-term contracts with our customer," mine engineer Matt Jones says. "We've got a 40-year contract with Mississippi Power for this operation. We're part of the community, and we want to make sure we're hiring our neighbors as much we can."

At its peak, the coal plant employed approximately 6,000 people, and once the facility opens they'll hold more than 1,000 permanent positions. The plant is already mining coal, and Mississippi Power is using the process to help ratepayers.

After mining the coal right here, they're then able to obtain byproducts like sulfuric acid, ammonia and carbon dioxide, which they can then sell. Although there has been a rate increase for customers, the profits from those byproducts are factored in to the increase, making the total increase much lower than original estimates.

"The revenues from the byproducts are actually going back to the ratepayers in our seven year plan," vice president of Generation Development John Huggins says. "It's part of the rate structure that's in place right now. They are helping to offset some of the O and M costs for the plant site."

Many hiccups - like equipment, weather and productivity delays- have pushed the completion back more than a year from its original start date. Now, The coal plant is scheduled for operation and production by May 31, 2015. But officials say they're working on a tighter schedule, and it could be sooner.