CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Century Aluminum and Appalachian Power are in the early stage of talks designed to find a power rate structure that could help the company restart its idled Ravenswood plant.
Appalachian Power spokeswoman Jeri Matheney confirmed last week the representatives from the two companies have been discussing potential rate options.
"We're in communication with Century, but we are certainly only in an exploratory phase," Matheney said.
Century has been working for more than a year on restarting its shuttered Ravenswood smelter, which closed in February 2009 after the Great Recession triggered a sharp sell-off in global aluminum prices.
More than 650 workers lost their jobs when the plant shut down.
Last year, state lawmakers passed a Century-backed $20 million annual tax credit package designed to help bring down the plant's power bill.
While the company succeeded in pushing the bill through the Legislature last spring, its restart efforts stalled with the state Public Service Commission last fall.
Because the plant's power bill is its highest single expense, Century executives have said the company needs a flexible power rate structure that will protect it from wild fluctuations in aluminum prices.
The company had asked the PSC to approve a rate structure in which its power rates would rise and fall with aluminum prices. To offset those fluctuations, Century proposed shifting costs onto other Appalachian Power ratepayers to make up some costs when prices were low.
Consumer groups, other manufacturers and state lawmakers blasted that proposal. They said regular ratepayers should not bear the burden of Century's costs.
In October, commissioners approved a special power rate structure for Century Aluminum. They essentially gave Century the rates they wanted but said the company would be on the hook for any short payments to the power company.
Century balked at that idea.
Century asked commissioners to reconsider their decision, but the PSC upheld its decision in December.