Kemper Plant Starts Making Power with Natural Gas

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Jackson, Miss.

Mississippi Power Co. says a key part of its $5.5 billion Kemper County power plant is operational.

The unit of Atlanta-based Southern Co. announced Thursday that it has put three power generating turbines into commercial operation burning natural gas piped to the east Mississippi plant, even as Mississippi Power works complete parts of the plant that will turn lignite coal into synthetic gas.

The company says starting the turbines now is required by accounting rules and will allow it to capture tax benefits while providing power to customers.

Gasifying coal and extracting chemicals are what has made the plant so expensive. Critics have said Mississippi Power should have built a conventional natural gas plant, but the company has said it fears fluctuations in gas prices.