A coalition of western Kentucky businesses and residents has formed in hopes of minimizing the fallout of an electricity rates deal between Big Rivers Electric Co-Op and western Kentucky aluminum smelters.
The coalition is worried the deal will lead to higher utility bills for residents and businesses.
Aluminum prices have been low in the past few years, and across Kentucky, aluminum smelters have sought to save money on their electricity bills.
Earlier this year, Big Rivers cut a deal with two Western Kentucky smelters, allowing them to buy their electricity on the open market. The smelters said the change was necessary to stay in business, but the deal cost the electric company more than half of its customer base.
To make up for that, Big Rivers is asking the Kentucky Public Service Commission to approve a 30 percent rate increase for its remaining customers.
Century Aluminum in Hancock County and Big Rivers Electric Corporation have reached a tentative agreement that will allow the electricity supplier to buy market-priced power for the Hawesville smelter.
The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports Century Aluminum also announced today that it is purchasing the Webster County smelter Sebree Works-Rio Tinto Alcan.
The moves appear to at least stabilize the aluminum industry in the northwestern Kentucky region, which employs about 1,200 people.
Hancock County leaders are trying to stay optimistic about the future of a major employer in their area. Century Aluminum smelter announced this week it has given Big Rivers Electric Cooperative a 12-month termination notice. That puts the smelter’s ability to operate in jeopardy.
The Kentucky Public Service Commission has scheduled public hearings for next month in Henderson and Paducah to get input on a proposal that would raise rates for customers of Big Rivers Electric Corp.
A Hancock County aluminum smelter is warning it might have to shut down its 700-employee operation if it can't negotiate better electric rates. Century Aluminum and power producer Big Rivers Electric Corporation appear to be at an impasse in their efforts to find a solution.