The United States Energy Information Administration (EIA) keeps track of electricity costs. Their April statistics show that Mississippi homeowners paid
11.87 cents per kilowatt hour for electricity. This is lower than the U.S. average of 12.31.
When commercial and industrial is included, Mississippi averaged 9.06 compared to the national average of 9.67.
Mississippi’s 11.87 is 4.8 percent higher than the 11.33 average of eight southern states.
The New England states have by far the most expensive electricity at 18.29 cents per kilowatt. The western states have the cheapest at 9.80 thanks to inexpensive hydroelectric power from dams.
Energy prices keep going up. In 2004, the U.S. average was 8.95. Today it is 12.31. That’s a 38 percent increase in 10 years. By comparison, the consumer price index is up 26 percent over 10 years.
In Mississippi, we have three main electricity providers. Number one is Entergy Mississippi, which has 440,000 meters in 45 counties.
Number two is Mississippi Power, of Kemper power plant fame, which supplies 188,000 meters in the southeast region of Mississippi.
The rest of Mississippi, 800,000 meters, is supplied by cooperatives, many of which are associated with the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA).
Entergy and Mississippi Power are monopolies regulated by the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC). The cooperatives are not regulated since they are owned by the customers, who presumably can look after their own interests (not that it happens like that).
The latest rate EIA data for each utility company is for the year 2012. Entergy charged residential customers 8.17 cents per kilowatt. Mississippi Power charged customers 11.09.
Out of the 46 Mississippi power co-ops, the 10 lowest cooperatives were Webster Electric Coop, 8.26 cents; Public Service Commission of Yazoo, 8.71; Clarksdale Public Utilities, 8.91; City of Tupelo, 9.09; Prentiss County Electric Power Association, 9.23; City of Columbus, 9.55; Greenwood Utilities, 9.75; City of Albany, 9.85; North Central Mississippi EPA, 9.89; Louisville Electric System, 9.92.
The 10 most expensive are Yazoo Valley Electric Power Association, 13.62; Twin County Electric Power Association, 13.57; Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association, 12.50; Magnolia Electric Power Association, 12.38; Southern Pine Electric Power Association, 12.14; East Mississippi Electric Power Association, 12.09; Coast Electric Power Association, 11.95; Southwest Mississippi EPA, 11.94; Dixie Electric Power Association, 11.74; and Singing River Electric Power Association, 11.44.
You can view a full listing of all 46 Mississippi electricity providers at http://www.eia.gov/electricity/sales_revenue_price/pdf/table6.pdf.
It is important to note that Entergy is the lowest electricity provider of all 46 Mississippi providers. So when Entergy President Haley Fisackerly called to set up a meeting with me, he was already on my good side.
I have known Haley, a Northsider, casually for many years and have always found him likable and approachable.
Entergy Mississippi is a subsidiary of Entergy Inc., which provides electricity to 2.8 million meters in Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas.
A decade ago, Entergy centralized operations and made their Mississippi executives more public relations people than operating executives. But the company reversed course and has now given more operating authority back to the Mississippi executives.
Haley had good reason to meet with me. Utility companies are under a lot of scrutiny since the Mississippi Power Kemper debacle and Entergy is seeking approval for a $6.28 monthly increase per 1000 kilowatts, which is about a month’s worth for an average household.
Even after the increase, Entergy would still be the third lowest utility provider in the state and far lower than the second biggest provider, Mississippi Power.
Fisackerly said the increase is necessary because of a variety of infrastructure investments. For instance, Entergy has purchased four used natural gas plants for around a billion dollars. The plants are capable of producing four times the power of the ill-fated Kemper plant at around one-sixth the cost. There are numerous other improvements to the grid plus increased human resources and regulatory costs.
Entergy has also become part of MISO, a wholesale electricity buying cooperative that covers 15 states and serves 42 million people. That means Entergy customers have access to the least expensive hydro, coal, gas, oil, wind or nuclear from dozens of sources. MISO buys the least expensive energy it can from its participating utility companies.
Entergy must make its case to the PSC, which I hope is being more careful in its scrutiny following the Kemper mess.
Fisackerly says Entergy’s plan for growth is to keep rates lower, which will attract industrial and residential growth. Indeed, Entergy Mississippi, with its high percentage of natural gas and nuclear, has some of the lowest rates in the nation.
Now if we could just get Entergy to support progressive solar panel rules like there are in Louisiana.
The multi-billion dollar question is why Mississippi Power rates are 36 percent higher than Entergy’s. And that doesn’t include the recent rate increases caused by Kemper. When the EIA compiles those statistics, the difference will be even greater.
The discrepancy wasn’t caused by Katrina – the feds picked up that bill. If the PSC staff wants to make up for their Kemper debacle, they can start by figuring out why two utility companies in the same state have such a huge difference in rates.
Editor’s note: Wyatt Emmerich is the publisher of the Northside Sun and president of Emmerich Newspapers.