Entergy Corp. has agreed with Mississippi regulators to cut $35 million from the amount it is seeking from customers under a new rate plan, dropping the total to $14 million annually and setting the stage for the Public Service Commission to approve the plan by Dec. 9.
Mississippi's largest private utility also agreed not to ask customers to pay for the $56.8 million that Entergy spent planning a now-shelved expansion of the Grand Gulf nuclear plant, although it reserved the right to seek the money if it restarts plans to build a new reactor at the Claiborne County site.
A residential customer who uses 1,000 kilowatt hours per month would see bills increase by 1.4 percent to $109.44 a month if the deal is approved, according to testimony presented by Entergy. Most Entergy customers use more power than that. Bills for a residence using 1,500 kwh per month would rise less than 1 percent, to $151.99 a month.
Mara Hartmann, a spokeswoman for Entergy, said that an extra fuel charge currently on customers' bills will end after January, negating the increases.
Some customers would see larger increases. The charge for being connected to Entergy's grid would rise 25 percent from $6.37 to $7.97 a month for residential customers. The company agreed to eliminate some of the discount given to people with electric hot water heaters, raising rates by greater percentages on those 167,000 customers.
Customers who use only 500 kilowatt hours per month would see bills rise nearly 4 percent, Entergy figures show. Such customers on the water heater rate would see bills rise nearly 12 percent.
New Orleans-based Entergy serves 441,000 customers in 45 Mississippi counties. Hearings before the commission are scheduled to start Tuesday, and new rates would take effect Jan. 30.
The Public Utilities Staff recommended that commissioners allow Entergy to collect expenses on a forward-looking basis, instead of billing for what the company already spent.
"This is the result of a lot of things that were addressed and negotiated out," Entergy Mississippi President Haley Fisackerly said in a phone interview. "It's going to give us the type of stability we need to invest in this business."
A new depreciation schedule would allow Entergy to recoup the value of some equipment and facilities more rapidly, but not as quickly as Entergy had sought.
The agreement would allow Entergy to set up a discounted rate schedule for very large industrial and commercial customers, but requires commission approval for each customer buying power at that rate.
There are some issues not covered by the agreement. For example, The commission must decide if it will approve Entergy's plan to build small solar 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.
"The solar project is not a big plan, but we need something to start understanding how renewables will do in Mississippi," Fisackerly said.