SACE | Southern Alliance for Clean Energy
State Energy Overview
The “birthplace of America’s music” is still out of tune with America’s clean energy transition. The Clean Air Task Force estimates that each year, 90 hospital admissions, 167 heart attacks, and 136 deaths in the state can be attributed to air pollution from coal burning alone. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, utilities in Mississippi spent just eleven cents per person on energy efficiency programs, while spending 1400 times as much to import coal (download their fact sheet). Nonetheless, Mississippi has potential to benefit from renewable energy from within the state and from other parts of the US. To learn more about Mississippi’s current energy mix and coal plants in the state, download our “What’s Powering Mississippi?” fact sheet [pdf].
Solar: At the end of 2013, Mississippi had about 1 MW of installed solar capacity, the lowest level of any state in the Southeast. That said, there were two positive developments in 2014 which may help facilitate solar market growth going forward. The first was a study commissioned by the PSC to evaluate the costs and benefits of net metering in the state, which found that under most scenarios the benefits outweigh the costs. The second development involved a settlement agreement between Mississippi Power and a local chapter of the Sierra Club in which Mississippi Power agreed to not opposed net metering and to procure up to 100 MW of wind and solar power. In exchange, Sierra Club agreed to stop its legal and regulatory opposition to the Kemper coal gasification power plant. Time will tell on how these developments shape Mississippi’s renewable energy future.
Wind: The latest studies from the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) show significant wind potential. With these new wind turbines, over 43,000 megawatts (MW) of land-based wind potential currently exist in Mississippi. Developing just one gigawatt of wind energy capacity (1,000 MW) in Mississippi (less than 2% of Mississippi’s onshore potential) could power more than 255,500 homes a year! Mississippi is also making plans to connect to Texas’s ample wind resources via the Southern Cross transmission line, slated to go online in a few years and power Mississippi homes and businesses with over three gigawatts of wind power. For more information about wind energy in Mississippi, visit our Learn About page here.
Other renewables: According to NREL estimates, if Mississippi tapped just 1% of its total renewable potential (from solar, wind, biomass, geothermal, and hydro), it would add 29GW of electric capacity — more than ten times the installed coal generation capacity in the state.
Coal: In 2010, burning coal accounted for about 25% of power generated in the state, down from 36.9% in 2000, with the gap mainly made up by natural gas. There are four coal plants of substantial size in the state, one of which is converting to natural gas, and one controversial new plant under construction since 2010. If completed, the Kemper County Lignite Plant would burn the dirtiest form of coal, lignite, mined on site. The planned integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC) plant is slated to cost $6.2 billion and go online in the first half of 2016, about two years behind schedule. Despite over a billion dollars in state and federal subsidies, it has nearly bankrupted the relatively small Mississippi Power, which has been back and forth with the state PSC about how much it can charge ratepayers for the plant. For more information on the plant and to take action, please visit Sierra Club’s campaign page.
In addition to harmful air pollution, Mississippi’s four coal plants also produce nearly 1.75 million tons of toxic coal ash every year. The state’s utilities failed to provide adequate information to the EPA, so the public has no way to know the total amount of coal ash stored at each plant, the danger these dumpsites pose to nearby communities and waterways, and the condition of impoundment dams. Although Mississippi ranks 24th in the nation for coal ash generation, it lacks many basic safeguards to keep coal ash from polluting air, water, and endangering communities. Check out this fact sheet to learn more about coal ash in Mississippi.