A special referendum allowing Goose Creek to establish a municipal electric utility passed Tuesday night, clearing the way for the city to annex 5,000 acres in the Mt. Holly area and begin providing electricity to Century Aluminum in 2021.
The referendum passed with 1,177 in favor of the utility and 525 opposed, according to unofficial results from Berkeley County (.pdf). The election had 7.1% voter turnout.
Mayor Greg Habib had been championing the referendum as an opportunity for economic development in the city.
“Every dollar we collect from this project will be a dollar we do not need to collect from the residents or businesses in our city,” he said in September prior to City Council approving the ballot referendum. “We will be able to hire more policemen, we will be able to hire more firemen, we will be able to expand recreational opportunities in the city, and we will do that … without raising taxes on the residents who live here.”
Additionally, Century Aluminum has said that if it could buy all of its electricity at open market rates, the aluminum smelter would be able to restart its second pot line, which it shut down in 2015. Century Aluminum currently receives its electricity through a contract with Santee Cooper; 30% of the electricity is at Santee Cooper rates and 70% is at open market prices.
The new electric utility will not service current residents and businesses located in Goose Creek, who will continue to be served by Berkeley Electric Cooperative. The Goose Creek electric utility would only service the 5,000 acres that will be annexed into the city.