South Carolina’s cloudy energy future: Will it affect manufacturing? | Business

Although electricity costs often play a key role in where manufacturers choose to expand, experts say last week’s decision to scrap construction of two new reactors at the V.C. Summer Nuclear Station isn’t expected to have a long-term impact on statewide economic development efforts.

“I think it’s significant, but it surely won’t roll back the tremendous momentum of all the things that make South Carolina attractive,” said John Boyd, president of industrial site selection firm The Boyd Co.

Boyd said manufacturers pay more attention to labor costs, the availability of workforce training programs and the lack of labor union representation when deciding where to build their next plant. Electricity costs are farther down the list.

A new study of annual manufacturing costs by Boyd’s New Jersey-based company shows South Carolina has the 20th-lowest average electricity prices of the 48 contiguous states. That’s more than offset by South Carolina’s average labor costs of $20.21 per hour — the lowest of the 48 states — and the nation’s fewest union members, at 1.6 percent of all workers.

The Palmetto State ranks as the lowest-cost state for manufacturers when all expenses are taken into account, the study shows.

Steve Dykes, economic development director for Charleston County, said: “Without a doubt, electrical rates are a very significant factor in the effort to attract and retain manufacturers.”

“Just how significant a factor they are is driven by the relative energy intensity of their individual production processes,” he said.

Century Aluminum is one of the largest industrial customers of Moncks Corner-based Santee Cooper, buying 100 megawatts of electricity for its Mount Holly smelter in Goose Creek when the facility is running at full capacity. The company has cut production in half citing the utility’s high electricity costs and has…

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