The Mississippi Public Service Commission approved rate hikes at its Tuesday meeting related to the increasing cost of natural gas for both Entergy and Mississippi Power and set a date for a hearing on its new net metering rule.
The commission voted to accept written comments on the new net metering rule until February 1 and the hearing on the matter will be held on February 8 at 10 a.m.
Entergy says that due to higher natural gas prices, it needs $80 million more from its customers in the form of higher rates for the next two years. According to the company’s filing from November, an average customer using 1,000 kilowatt hours per month would see an increase of $7.81 on their February bill after other rate adjustments are taken into account.
This includes a $1.17 per month decrease for a 1,000 kWh customer related to the company’s membership in the Midcontinent Independent System Operator or MISO and an 11 cent increase related to grid modernization using broadband technology.
Mississippi Power asked the commission for a hike of $3.86 per month for a 1,000 kWh customer to take effect next month. The utility says it needs $63 million more from its customers to make up for increased natural gas prices.
Both rate hikes will be subject to a review every 90 days by the commission.
Natural gas utility Spire will pass on a 68 cent per month rate hike after the commission approved their request.
According to data from the U.S. Energy Information Administration, natural gas prices have hit a period of severe volatility. After bottoming out with a five-year low in June at $1.63 per million British Thermal Units (Btu), prices rebounded in October at $5.51 per million Btu.
As for net metering, the commission is now in the final stages of approving a new rule that is the first change to the original one passed by the commission in 2015. Net metering is a practice where utility customers (both business and household) generate their own electricity with solar or wind power and can sell it back to the grid.
The new rule would provide a $3,000 upfront, one-time cash rebate for low-income customers to install a renewable generation unit that can range in capacity from 3 kilowatts to 6 kilowatts. Also, low-income customers can take advantage of a $1,000 one-time energy efficiency rebate program as well.
The new rule would also deal with schools wanting to enter the distributed generation arena. The commission, as part of the new rule, ordered both Entergy and Mississippi Power to provide their plans for offering solar for schools within 60 days of final adoption of the new rule.
The price paid to net metering customers will remain the same at 2.5 cents per kilowatt hour.
The commission did decide to take up the issue of community solar in a later docket, which would entail a municipality or even neighborhood putting up a solar generation facility.
Central District Commissioner Brent Bailey said that he was hopeful that the new rule would encourage wider adoption of net metering.
The commission also approved a voluntary pre-paid program for Entergy customers that would allow them to pay their bills in advance.
The commission also referred to Northern District Commissioner Brandon Presley the ability to hold a hearing on a proposed solar facility in Lowndes County. MS Solar 6 would have the Tennessee Valley Authority as its customer for its 150-megawatt facility that would include a 50-megawatt capacity battery storage facility. The capital investment for the Miami, Florida-based Origis USA facility is $120 million and it would create 200 construction jobs and one permanent job at the 1,510 acre facility.
Origis already operates or has been approved by the PSC to operate four solar electric generation facilities in Mississippi.