Power providers pitch low rate plan to attract new business

By Eric

MONCKS CORNER, S.C. (WCIV) -- It could be the power to reel in major employment growth across South Carolina. But could it force one major employer and 600 Lowcountry jobs out?

Wednesday, Santee Cooper offered discounted power rates to new customers who decide to start up a business. At the same time, one existing customer might get left in the dark.

It's a possible power surge to get job growth going.

"Jobs need to be created and they need to grow in the state for the economy," said Santee Cooper, Vice President of Corporate Communication, Laura Varn. "We've got a big responsibility to do that with economic development."

Effective immediately, Santee Cooper announced it will provide power at a cheaper clip to industrial customers who in return, pledge to bring their business.

"The companies would need to make an 8-year commitment so they've got to have some skin in the game," Varn said. "They got to agree to stay for at least eight years or expand for that long and then we will give them those financial incentives."

Companies would save 45 percent the first year, 30 percent the second year, then 20 and finally 10 percent the fourth year.

"Your large industrial manufacturing type of companies will be the ones that will be applicable to apply for this rate."

Aluminum maker Alcoa falls right into that category. Alcoa has been negotiating with Santee Cooper, for the better part of a year, for a better rate. The company has threatened to shut down its Goose Creek plant if it doesn't get one.

But in this case Alcoa would have to up power usage to get a discount.

"Any of our current industrial customers would need to agree to expand and take more power from us in order to meet the rate," Varn said.

Meaning the current rate, Alcoa says it can't pay, would not change.

"The discount would be to the new load they're bringing on, not what they currently have," said Varn.

The rate incentives are available through 2014.

Wednesday, an Alcoa spokesperson said the discounts do not apply to them and the company will continue to negotiate with Santee Cooper.