Entergy seeks new rate plan in Mississippi

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JACKSON, Miss. (AP) — Entergy Corp. asked Mississippi regulators Tuesday to overhaul the power provider's entire rate structure in a proposal that would generate an estimated $49 million increase in annual revenue.

"This is the first general rate case filing we've had with the Mississippi Public Service Commission in 12 years," CEO Haley Fisackerly told The Associated Press. "Every so often, when you go through a lot of changes, you have to reset."

Changes are likely as the separate Public Utilities Staff evaluates the plan before sending it to the three-member Public Service Commission. The commission must approve the proposal, with Entergy looking to complete that process by January. That's when customers will no longer have to pay a recently approved fuel charge on their bills. Assuming that happens, the $6.28-a-month increase in a bill for a customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours will be offset by a $5.57 decrease in the fuel charge.

A 1,000-kilowatt-hour customer would pay $114.36 a month, if regulators approve. The average Entergy Mississippi customer who uses about 1,300 kilowatt hours per month would pay $148.67 a month, less than $1 above bills with the fuel charge.

The utility wants to increase its customer charge — the amount paid just for being hooked up to the grid, which would push the minimum bill from $6.36 to $9.44 a month. In testimony filed with the PSC, Entergy said it costs more than $15 a month to keep each customer hooked up. Spokeswoman Mara Hartmann said usage charges would decrease, offsetting the customer charge for those who consume more power. Those who use less would see proportionally larger bill increases.

The biggest part of the $49 million increase would stem from Entergy marking down the value of some facilities more rapidly as they age. That would increase what customers pay toward depreciation by $30 million a year. Entergy said it needs the cash to pay for improvements.

Entergy proposes to build three small solar-energy projects to offer green power to customers. Preliminary sites for the installations are in Jackson, Franklin County, and either in Attala County or Senatobia. Each would generate 500 kilowatts of power, using solar panels built by Stion Corp. in Hattiesburg.

"Solar's here. It's coming," Fisackerly said. "We need to understand how it could be better used in our system."

Residential and commercial customers who chose the green option would pay more to receive the power.

Part of the plan is a cleanup of changes since the last general rate case. Regulators have allowed Entergy to pay for property tax changes, as well as the natural gas-fired plants it bought in Attala County and Jackson, with special rates it tacked on to the general rate. Entergy also says it needs to recover costs from leaving pooling arrangements with other Entergy utilities, as well as costs from joining a regional transmission group.

Entergy also wants to lock in lower rates for new business customers and to get permission to charge customers to build new power lines to help develop prospective industrial sites.

"The best way for us to manage costs going forward is to grow," Fisackerly said.

New Orleans-based Entergy serves 441,000 customers in 45 Mississippi counties.

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