Southern Company chips in $1 billion after halting troubled “clean coal” plant

0

Southern Company chips in $1 billion after halting troubled “clean coal” plant

View CaptionHide Caption
Mississippi Power’s Kemper County “clean coal” plant under construction in a 2012 photo. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, File)

Southern Company said it injected $1 billion in additional capital into its Mississippi subsidiary after it decided last week, under pressure from state regulators, to pull the plug on a troubled “clean coal” plant.

The Atlanta utility holding company’s shares have dropped about 7 percent since the Mississippi Public Service Commission told Mississippi Power last month that the utility should absorb $6.5 billion in losses and cost overruns at the first-of-its kind Kemper plant.

The stock price decline over the past two weeks has wiped out roughly $3.7 billion of Southern’s stock market value.

In a monthly filing on the status of the Kemper plant, Southern said $3.4 billion of the Kemper plant’s costs are not yet reflected in its Mississippi customers’ rates. If the Mississippi regulator does not allow Mississippi Power to recover those costs, Southern said it will have to recognize a related charge against its second-quarter income.

The Mississippi regulators also recently told the utility that the Kemper plant should only burn natural gas, prompting Southern’s decision last week to suspend efforts to operate a coal “gasification” unit at the plant. The $7.5 billion plant was designed to convert cheap lignite coal into synthetic gas, but it has never run properly.

Mississippi Power used the $1 billion equity contribution from its parent company to prepay $300 million on a $1.2 billion unsecured loan, to repay $591 million on a loan from Southern, and $10 million on bank loans, Southern said last week in the filing.

Georgia Power, Southern’s largest subsidiary, faces similarly big headaches with its project to build two new nuclear reactors at Plant Vogtle near Augusta.

The Vogtle expansion is over three years behind schedule and more than $3 billion over budget. More costs and delays are expected after the project’s key contractor, Westinghouse Electric, filed bankruptcy in late March.

MYAJC.COM: REAL JOURNALISM. REAL LOCAL IMPACT.

AJC Business reporter Russell Grantham keeps you updated on the latest news about major companies, CEOs and public utilities in metro Atlanta and beyond. You'll find more on myAJC.com, including these stories:

Never miss a minute of what's happening in local business news. Subscribe to myAJC.com.

VIDEO -- What Westinghouse’s troubles mean for Plant Vogtle:

Westinghouse, the main contractor on Georgia Power’s Plant Vogtle near Augusta, Ga. and Scana Corps’ Summer Nuclear Station in South Carolina, recently sought bankruptcy court protection.
View Comments 0

Weather and Traffic