BERKELEY COUNTY, S.C. (WCBD) – Santee Cooper’s Board of Directors voted to extend the utility company’s current contract with Century Aluminum for three months on Monday.
Century Aluminum has said they will shut down by December 31st if they are forced to renew the contract with Santee Cooper which would leave nearly 300 people without a job.
They say Santee Cooper charges it “the highest rates offered to any U.S. smelter.” Century also claims they are charged double what they could find on the open market.
Following their vote, officials as Santee Cooper said the move to extend the contract for three months will give them time to continue negotiations that could lead to a new three-year contract with the plant.
The current contract is set to expire at the end of the year.
Santee Cooper said a potential longer-term, new power deal is made possible due to excess power capacity available on Santee Cooper’s system through 2023.
Leaders say the term of a longer agreement will be based on the timeframe when the excess capacity is available from Unit 3 at Winyah Generating Station, requiring Century to pay incremental costs of keeping the unit online through 2023.
The three-year agreement would require the development of an experimental rate and ensure that no costs are shifted to other customers.
“In addition to helping one of our oldest industrial customers and all the people who work there, this effort would also free up transmission capacity to import additional low-priced off-system power that can benefit all of our customers,” said President and CEO Mark Bonsall. “We appreciate the productive negotiations so far, and thank the Century team for coming to the table with enthusiasm and a genuine interest in and effort to work on an arrangement to benefit both parties. I also appreciate the support and guidance offered by the Department of Commerce in facilitating our discussions.”
Last December, Goose Creek residents passed a referendum to create a city-owned utility to power the Mount Holly Plant. The plant would have been incorporated into city limits.
Then in October of this year, a judge ruled only Santee Cooper has the right to be the exclusive power provider to the plant.
Santee Cooper says they have been working with the plant and offered competitive prices since 2012. The state-owned utility also says their industrial rates are 20% lower than the national average.