Santee Cooper approves new contract with Century Aluminum, sets Winyah retirement deadline
Board also approves preliminary Hearn settlement
MONCKS CORNER, S.C. – The Santee Cooper Board of Directors approved today a new contract with Century Aluminum, providing all electric needs to its Mount Holly plant in Berkeley County through Dec. 31, 2023.
Santee Cooper will serve Century under an experimental rate that takes advantage of incremental power – excess capacity available until Winyah Units 3 and 4 are retired at the end of 2023 (Winyah 4 was idled Dec. 31, 2020.) Because all of Century’s load will be served from Santee Cooper resources, the deal also frees up 150 megawatts (MW) of transmission capacity, used by Century under its existing contract, which Santee Cooper can now use for economic wholesale market sales and purchases that will benefit all customers.
The new power agreement allows Century to continue operations at its Mount Holly plant, which employs about 300 people currently and is expected to increase operations and jobs under the new contract.
“Throughout these negotiations, Century’s team has worked elbow to elbow with Santee Cooper in developing a unique service agreement that truly benefits all parties,” said Mark Bonsall, Santee Cooper president and CEO. “The South Carolina Department of Commerce also played a pivotal role in facilitating this deal, and I thank Secretary Bobby Hitt for supporting the process. The Mount Holly plant is a model of efficiency in its industry, an important employer in this area and a good corporate citizen, and Santee Cooper is pleased to continue to power its success.”
The service agreement drew positive reaction from others as well.
South Carolina Commerce Secretary Bobby Hitt said, “Today’s announcement is another illustration of the strength of Team SC. Working creatively and collaboratively, Santee Cooper and Century Aluminum were able to come to a balanced, mutually beneficial agreement that is positive for both the long-term prospect of Mount Holly operations and future economic opportunities.”
Sen. Brian Adams, R-Berkeley County, said, “The 300 dedicated employees at Mt. Holly are the big winners today. I thank the Commerce Department, Century and Santee Cooper for working together and finding an innovative deal that keeps those jobs and offers the promise of more to come.”
Rep. Joe Daning, R-Berkeley, said, “Century and Santee Cooper are both vital members of this community and critical to our economy. I commend them for working hard to accomplish this deal and congratulate the employees at Mount Holly for their outstanding performance that made it possible.”
Berkeley County Supervisor Johnny Cribb said, “We are proud that for decades both Santee Cooper and Century Aluminum have called Berkeley County home. These two companies work hand-in-hand to support each other’s operations in order to deliver high-quality services to citizens and area industries. Because of their continued partnership under this new contract, quality of life will remain a top priority in our community as job opportunities expand and new investment boosts the County’s already-thriving economy.”
In conjunction with the new power agreement, Santee Cooper has resolved related litigation through settlement agreements with Century and the City of Goose Creek.
In other matters, the Board approved today a retirement deadline for all Winyah Generating Station units that aligns with new regulatory requirements. Santee Cooper anticipates retiring the four Winyah units by the end of 2027. The Board action requires retiring the station no later than Dec. 31, 2028, which complies with new environmental regulations.
The Board also approved preliminary settlement of a class-action suit related to its canceled plans to build a coal-fired generating station in Florence County (the Pee Dee station). Hearn v. Santee Cooper was filed in 2015, and Santee Cooper agreed to pay the plaintiffs $12.5 million to settle the suit. The settlement terms must still be approved by the Circuit Court in Horry County. In a related action, Santee Cooper filed suit against its then insurer, AIG, which sought to characterize Hearn as a “related wrongful act” to the now-settled Cook litigation, and restrict its coverage. AIG has agreed to pay Santee Cooper $9.7 million to settle that matter.