Big Rivers Electric’s decision to let Century Aluminum out of its contract in August, may mean significant electric rate increases throughout the region.
Big Rivers spokesperson Marty Littrel said the aluminum smelter will be able to buy electricity elsewhere on the open market. But since the smelter is Big Rivers’ biggest customer, Littrel said the power supplier has to raise rates about 20 percent.
“All we’re trying to do is cover our expenses here,” he said. “We’ll likely have to idle a plant because this is a huge revenue loss for us.”
The Century Aluminum smelter in Hawesville has notified employees that it plans to shut down operations Aug. 20 unless it can get lower electric rates.
The aluminum smelter has been in negotiations with its power supplier, Big Rivers Electric Corporation, for more than a year. Both parties say they are still trying to negotiate a deal before time runs out.
With the Kentucky General Assembly adjourned for the year, a look into lobbying spending during the session shows major dollars are still used to influence issues.
During the first two months of this year's session, a total of $4.2 million was spent lobbying. That's a 10 percent increase over the last 30-day session in 2011, according to Legislative Ethics Commission.
Big Rivers Electric customers in western Kentucky can expect a marginal increase in their rates soon but a much larger increase could be coming their way in July. The Kentucky Public Service Commission reaffirmed a 2011 decision that decreased subsidies for two aluminum smelters, fixed a $450,000 mathematical error and added legal costs, which adds 45 cents to the average customer’s bill.