Aluminum Smelter Shuts Down For Long-Term Power

By Dave Schafer Alcoa Inc.'s Wenatchee, Wash., aluminum smelter will sit idle for about 15 months as part of an agreement the Pittsburgh-based company reached in principle with the Chelan (County) Public Utility District (PUD). The agreement, subject to approval, will enable Chelan PUD to acquire additional power supplies to serve Alcoa and other customers in the future. Under the agreement, the Wenatchee smelter will shut down July 1 and return the power it would have used to Chelan PUD, which will then sell it at market rates and use that revenue to acquire up to 400 megawatts of additional power in the future. The revenue also will be used to cover a major portion of the Wenatchee facility's financial losses during the production curtailment. Alcoa says the impact on its earning during the idle period will not be material. Al Renkin, Alcoa vice president and president of Alcoa Primary Metals, says the agreement provides a long-term power source for Alcoa's Wenatchee smelter. Subject to the negotiation of further details, Alcoa will now have a contract for power with Chelan PUD through 2036. "This arrangement with Alcoa allows us to acquire additional power supplies to serve Chelan County loads in the future and maintain Chelan County employment at no cost to the Chelan PUD or its other ratepayers," says Roger Braden, Chelan PUD general manager. During the idle period Alcoa will maintain 400 of the smelter's approximately 625 employees. They will perform various training and maintenance activities, says an Alcoa spokesperson. The remaining jobs will be permanently eliminated, as had already been planned.

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