Century Aluminum Again Approaches South Carolina Legislature for Relief from Power Deal with Santee Cooper

Century Aluminum Again Approaches South Carolina Legislature for Relief from Power Deal with Santee Cooper

Still in pursuit of a deal that would allow it to buy power on the open market instead of from the state, Century Aluminum has again approached the South Carolina legislature to promote a bill allowing it to do just that.

A bill to allow Century to power its Mount Holly smelter via the open market was introduced earlier this month and has gained several co-sponsors to date. This attempt is the second time Century has sought legislation to shrug off an agreement with the South Carolina Public Service Authority (a/k/a “Santee Cooper”), the first being a similar bill that foundered in 2016.

Under the current agreement Century is obligated to purchase one quarter of its energy from Santee Cooper, which has powered Mount Holly since it opened almost forty years ago.

While the impetus to come to an agreement to power the plant has been significant since Century curtailed half the plant’s operations in 2016, the situation takes on an added significance this year, as the existing power deal expires on December 31.

Century has long maintained that it has gone out of its way to offer a deal that is fair to not only Santee Cooper, but also to the company’s subscribers. Late last year the firm proffered a deal that would have seen Century pay a fee to Santee Cooper insuring that its customers would not carry the load from its purchase of power from the private market.

In a statement released by Century, Mount Holly’s plant manager Dennis Harbath said the proposal was declined, leading to the present legislative push.

“Customers would not be charged a single penny more than they are today if we are allowed to go to market. However, Santee Cooper has rejected that proposal without offering any counter proposal, which forced us to seek a legislative solution.”

However, Santee Cooper spokeswoman Mollie Gore responded by saying that such a plan would still pass costs on to its subscribers due to the fact that it would be required to transport the electricity on its own grid.

“If Century’s terms were fair, Santee Cooper would embrace them. We have no reason not to.”