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Goose Creek is exploring the idea of creating a municipal electric utility to serve areas annexed into the city. A driving factor in the decision is Century Aluminum which is located right outside of Goose Creek city limits where high costs of power are threatening the company.
Century Aluminum currently purchases 75% of its power on the open market and the remaining 25% from Santee Cooper. According to a Count on News 2 report, the power the company purchases from Santee Cooper is almost double the cost compared to that purchased on the open market. Due to the high power costs, Century Aluminum had to close half of the facility’s operations in 2015.
The high costs of power and the problems they created within Goose Creek led to City Council discussions regarding the creation of their own utility which would buy power on the open market at half the cost of the power purchased from Santee Cooper. The utility would serve the nearly 5-thousand acres owned by Century Aluminum annexed into Goose Creek including the company’s smelter site and an undeveloped part of an industrial park.
On September 10, Goose Creek City Council approved a referendum to ask voters if they want to begin operating an electric utility to serve Century Aluminium and to approve the annexation of the 5,000 acres of Century property. If approved, the company would pay the city property taxes and a business license fee. City Council members believe this is a great opportunity to bring in large amounts of revenue for the city.
Santee Cooper officials responded swiftly making the claim that what is being proposed by Goose Creek is illegal, citing a similar 2004 annexation case involving South Carolina Electric & Gas vs. the Town of Awendaw.
Another issue arises with the fact that Santee Cooper owns all of the substation and transmission lines at the property. Santee Cooper’s next steps are still unknown, but it is clear the state-owned utility doesn’t want Goose Creek purchasing its power on the open market for nearly half the price.