RAVENSWOOD - Century Aluminum is still committed to working out a power rate deal and getting the Ravenswood facility back on line, a company official said Tuesday.
The reopening of the plant in Jackson County had been delayed as Century and Appalachian Power Co. had not reached an agreement on the cost of electric service to the plant.
''On Friday, Century Aluminum filed with the PSC a petition for approval of a special power rate,'' said Lindsey Berryhill, manager of corporate communications for Century Aluminum. ''This special rate would provide Century with the opportunity to restart the Ravenswood plant, which was curtailed in 2009 due to a collapse in aluminum prices at a time when the power rate did not have sufficient flexibility to compensate for the lower aluminum prices.
''The proposed special rate would be effective through 2021 and would be adjusted quarterly based on the global price of aluminum.''
Berryhill said the special rate is designed to allow the Ravenswood plant to economically operate over a wide range of aluminum prices. The rate includes tax credits, as authorized by 2012 legislation passed by the state, and additional financial support from Appalachian Power and its other customers as needed.
''When aluminum prices are high, Century would pay a higher rate and these additional revenues would be used first to repay any financial support previously provided by Appalachian Power or its customers,'' she said. ''Any further revenues would be used to reduce the current amount of the tax credit needed and to provide a credit against the power costs of other customers.''
Century's Ravenswood smelter was West Virginia's largest consumer of electricity when it was operating, Berryhill said. Since the facility was shuttered in February 2009, Century has been challenged by the increase in the cost of power rates, she said.
''In this three-year period, the annual cost of power to operate the plant has risen substantially while the selling price of aluminum has not rebounded sufficiently,'' she said. ''Century is seeking a sliding scale of rate support, to help bring its power costs to a level that will allow it to restart and compete with other aluminum manufacturers until such time as aluminum prices allow Century to pay a higher rate for its electricity.''
Century closed its Ravenswood smelter in 2009, laying off around 650 workers, and stopped health care coverage for retirees in 2010.
In March, the retirees of Century Aluminum accepted a deal with the company that would restore some of their lost health benefits and open the way for the Jackson County plant to reopen with legislation passed by the state. The settlement agreement between the retirees and Century is tied to the restart of the Jackson County plant and benefits will not begin until the plant is reopened.
The Public Service Commission has said it will have to look into the matter to determine a rate. The commission is required to investigate, review and consider the positions of all parties in this matter, which will result in a more prolonged and complex proceeding that will delay the commission's ultimate decision.
''Century had productive discussions with Appalachian Power Co. in the process of developing the special rate,'' Berryhill said. ''We understand that Appalachian Power will participate in the review and approval process before the PSC.''
Although many were hoping the plant will be back online by the end of summer, those involved are not sure now when the plant could reopen.
''Century believes that the special rate fairly balances the interests of Century, Appalachian Power, Appalachian Power's other customers, Century employees, Century retirees, and the community of Ravenswood,'' Berryhill said. ''The special rate as proposed is necessary for the restart of the Ravenswood plant and Century believes that it would fulfill the expectations of the many supporters of the 2012 legislation.''
Berryhill said the company is committed to working with the West Virginia Public Service Commission and Appalachian Power in determining a rate that will be beneficial for everyone. Getting the Ravenswood facility operational is "absolutely" a priority for the company, she said.