Whether it was a press release by Entergy Corp. or an answer to a question from an inquisitive reporter, the utility’s announcement of large savings from its membership in a regional grid is very well-timed.
For Entergy customers in the western half of Mississippi, it’s good news that the company’s participation in the Midcontinent Independent Transmission System (MISO) has resulted in savings of $118 million over the past three years.
MISO is a consortium of utilities in 15 states and the Canadian province of Manitoba. It seeks to make sure electricity is generated at the least expensive power plant, even if that’s far away from where it will be used.
Electric customers in the southeastern quarter of the state are served by Mississippi Power Co. That utility’s rates are noticeably higher than Entergy’s for two reasons: It’s not a member of MISO, but most importantly, it got approval for customers to pay for part of the $7 billion the company spent on an experimental coal gasification plant in Kemper County that is unlikely ever to use the technology to produce commercial electricity.
Late last month, after the state Public Service Commission signaled that it was unlikely to let Mississippi Power pass on more costs of the Kemper facility to customers, the company said it was suspending work at the plant.
It is to Entergy’s credit that it focused on generating power as inexpensively as possible instead of being tempted by costly ideas. The company guessed right when it stuck with natural gas at many of its generating plants: Those prices have been at historic lows for the past decade.
Entergy’s 2.9 million customers in Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas and Texas have saved a total of $500 million over the past three years. When Mississippi Power Co. is ready to move past the Kemper saga and start watching out for its customers, it does not have far to look.