Despite Ongoing Talks, Power Deal for Mount Holly Smelter Remains Elusive

Despite Ongoing Talks, Power Deal for Mount Holly Smelter Remains Elusive

Though both parties remain at the negotiating table, reports indicate that the gulf between Century Aluminum and Santee Cooper remains in talks over a deal to power Century’s Mount Holly smelter after December 31st.

Representatives of both companies have been meeting in closed-door sessions, the most recent of which was Tuesday. However, as yet no deal has been struck.

Though talks haven’t been as productive as desired, Century Aluminum’s CEO Mike Bless continues to hold out hope for a resolution.

“We remain optimistic. Santee Cooper has been very engaging … very open and willing to talk.”

Powering the Mount Holly smelter has been a contentious issue for the past several years. A dispute in the current agreement led to Century pulling the plug on half the smelter’s capacity, leading to the loss of 300 of the plant’s 600 workers. The dispute over that agreement will not go beyond this year, however, as it expires on the last day of 2018.

Bless told local media on Wednesday that his firm offered to pay US$2 million per year and higher transmission prices in exchange for the right to buy all of its power from an out-of-state source, which would provide electricity to Century at less than half the cost. Under the present agreement Century is obligated to purchase one quarter of its electricity from Santee Cooper.

Bless indicated that Santee Cooper balked at the deal, fearing that the extra electricity it would be transmitting from out of state might hamper transmission to other customers.

Santee Cooper would neither confirm nor deny receiving such an offer from Century. However, spokesperson Mollie Gore said the company was less than convinced that the offers made by Century would be beneficial for Santee Cooper’s other customers.

“Santee Cooper will not agree to an arrangement with Century that increases costs or in any way harms our other wholesale, industrial, commercial or residential customers,” she explained.