The Mississippi Public Service Commission voted Thursday to grant Mississippi Power Company an immediate emergency 18 percent increase in rates. Commissioners voted two to one to allow for the increase.

The vote came one week after a public hearing on the power company’s request to raise its rates. Power company officials testified last week that unless the rate increase was granted, the company will run out of money to operate its business by the end of this year.

Opponents argued that any increase granted by the PSC would be used to help pay for the construction of the Kemper County power plant, a fact that power company officials acknowledged. That lignite coal plant is already more than $2 billion over budget and a year behind schedule. In recent weeks, the state supreme court ordered that an 18 percent increase that has been in effect for the past two years to help pay for the construction of the plant must be returned to customers. That rebate totals $350 million. With Thursday’s approval, Mississippi Power will collect about $159 million a year to help defray operating costs and pay for construction of the plant.

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