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CEBA Welcomes U.S. Department of Energy Announcement of New Green Aluminum Smelter

The U.S. Department of Energy’s (DOE) Office of Clean Energy Demonstrations (OCED) today announced that Century Aluminum’s proposal for a new primary aluminum smelter in the Mississippi River Basin, with a preference for Kentucky, has been selected among 33 total projects for its Industrial Demonstrations Program.

Century’s new primary aluminum smelter will rely on carbon-free electricity, substantially reducing emissions compared to traditional smelters reliant on fossil fuel-based energy. Century’s greenfield facility, when built, will be the first new primary aluminum facility in the United States since 1980.

The project will more than double domestic primary aluminum production and create thousands of new jobs, turning the tide for aluminum production in the United States. This award is a breakthrough for aluminum decarbonization, particularly as the aluminum industry has struggled for decades with high energy costs at aging, polluting facilities.

In response to the announcement, the Clean Energy Buyers Association joined Industrious Labs and other partners in releasing the following statements:

Jen Snook, Deputy Director of Transaction Acceleration, Clean Energy Buyers Association:

“Clean energy demand continues to grow, driven both by significant voluntary purchases from energy customers and recent federal incentives, and it is vital that we boost production of clean energy supply chain materials like aluminum. Aluminum is a key component needed for an array of energy technologies, including solar, wind, batteries, transmission, and electric vehicles. A clean energy future will require more aluminum, made using zero-carbon electricity, and this announcement of a new lower-carbon smelter will help ensure our clean energy transition is truly clean.”

Lane Boldman, Executive Director at Kentucky Conservation Committee:

“Kentucky has always represented some of the hardest working Americans when it comes to industry and energy. Century’s Sebree smelter operates in Kentucky currently, along with their Hawesville smelter that was curtailed in 2022. We are hopeful that their new facility will find a home in Kentucky, and provide good jobs along with healthier air and water quality while supporting a critical industry for the state.”

Annie Sartor, Aluminum Campaign Director at Industrious Labs:

“This is a huge win for climate and jobs. This new investment in a clean aluminum smelter is a critical first step toward securing a domestic supply of low-carbon primary aluminum. This is an extraordinary start, but there is more to be done to ensure that the U.S. has the aluminum that we need to support the clean energy transition. This announcement demonstrates just how critical low-cost clean energy is not only for this new facility, and also for the remaining U.S. smelters that are struggling with high fossil-energy costs.”

Joe Quinn, Vice President of Strategic Industrial Materials at SAFE:

“A new domestic primary aluminum smelter is a significant step towards ensuring a secure and stable supply chain for this strategic industrial material. As the global economy transitions from fossil-based to minerals-based, where materials come from—and how they are produced—will have profound consequences on America’s national security and economic competitiveness. We’re excited to see the expansion of primary aluminum production in the U.S. to meet the growing demand.”

CeCe Grant, Director of the Industrial Transformation Campaign at Sierra Club:

“This important investment to clean up steel, aluminum, and other heavy emissions industries goes hand-in-hand with other climate-friendly policy measures, such as Buy Clean incentives. We will continue to work to ensure that fenceline communities and workers have a real seat at the table to shape the vision for a just transition. We are particularly excited for Century to take a leading role in clean aluminum production, which promises to not only reduce embodied emissions in goods we use today, but also deliver inputs we need for tomorrow’s electrification without further compromising our climate or health.”

Background Information:

This investment via the U.S. Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BIL) represents a critical advancement leveraging federal incentives to set primary aluminum production on an irreversible path toward decarbonization. Aluminum is an essential metal for building the products of a zero-carbon economy including solar panels, transmission lines, electric vehicles, and many others.

This award to Century Aluminum ensures a domestic supply of clean primary aluminum, a crucial step toward securing the supply chain for primary aluminum that will also provide the region with good, family supporting jobs. This investment is jumpstarting efforts to secure the renewable energy that the primary aluminum industry desperately needs.

The aluminum industry in the United States has been in a crisis for decades. This advancement in the clean energy transition comes at a time when the primary aluminum industry has been in danger of disappearing completely due to high electricity costs. The major cost driver for aluminum production is electricity—primarily driven by skyrocketing fossil fuel prices—contributing up to 40% of aluminum production costs.

The curtailment of Magnitude 7 Metals in Marston, Missouri earlier this year, which impacted over 450 workers and wiped out nearly 20% of domestic primary aluminum production, highlights the continuing decline of U.S. aluminum smelters, posing a dire threat to our clean energy transition while forcing us to rely heavily on foreign imports for aluminum and jeopardizing our ability to meet the growing demand of aluminum here in the United States.