Goose Creek residents vote to create a municipal electric utility

FILE/BRAD NETTLES/Post & Courier

Goose Creek residents voted Tuesday in favor of the plan to create a municipal electric utility for the purpose of supplying power to only one customer: Century Aluminum’s Mount Holly plant.

The referendum passed with unofficial results showing 1,177 votes in favor and 525 votes opposed. Only 7 percent of city residents turned out for the special election.

Now that voters have approved the plan, city leaders will need to annex the 5,000 acres where Century Aluminum’s Mount Holly plant is located, in Berkeley County. The plant will be the only customer receiving power from the city’s new electric utility. All other city residents will continue to receive electricity through Berkeley Electric Cooperative.

Goose Creek will contract with an existing utility to purchase power and transmit it along established power lines and then sell it to only Century Aluminum. As a result, the aluminum smelting company will be less burdened by the high cost of power.

The idea to establish a municipal electric utility came about after Century Aluminum cut the Mount Holly production in half and laid off 300 employees due to the high cost of electricity. The company buys 75 percent of its power on the open market and 25 percent from Santee Cooper. Now that the referendum has given the city approval to create a municipal electric utility, Mount Holly can purchase electricity from Goose Creek at a lower rate.

Goose Creek officials previously said establishing their own electric utility would provide affordable electricity to Century Aluminum, restores those 300 jobs, and raises the city’s revenue.

Once the site is annexed into the city limits, Goose Creek leaders have estimated the city will receive $1 million annually in taxes from Century Aluminum.

Goose Creek Mayor Greg Habib has said taxpayers will not be covering any of the costs related to the project and that the additional city revenue generated by the electric utility could be used toward improvements in the town’s public safety and parks and recreation.

Santee Cooper has called the decision to create a municipal electric utility unlawful.