Alcoa says contested dams generated profit

YADKIN RIVER, NORTH CAROLINA - Alcoa Inc. said a series of North Carolina hydroelectric dams the company is fighting to continue operating generated $8 million in profit from electricity sales last year.

The company planned to release financial statements that show its Yadkin River dams have returned profits of between $8 million and $7.3 million in the past three, recession-scarred years on electricity sales that have averaged around $30 million since 2007.

The figures, audited by accounting firm PricewaterhouseCoopers, and comments by an Alcoa executive offer insight into why the company is waging a determined fight with state officials for a renewed operating license of up to 50 years for its four dams on the Yadkin River in central North Carolina.

Alcoa sees itself as an energy company within the country's largest aluminum maker, vice president Kevin Anton said in an interview with The Associated Press.

"Alcoa is a big energy company and this fits very well in our energy portfolio. We're bullish on energy prices in the long term. We're bullish on green power. So that's why we're here," Anton said. "We're committed to it."

Alcoa also operates hydroelectric dams on the North Carolina-Tennessee border, Quebec, Brazil, and Central America.

State officials briefed by the company had no immediate comment.

Gov. Beverly Perdue, like her predecessor Mike Easley, is trying to block Alcoa's federal license renewal, anticipating the river's waters may be needed by humans in the decades ahead. Officials also believe they could spur local job growth by attracting industries with dam-generated electricity.

Pittsburgh-based Alcoa and its predecessors built the Yadkin River dams decades ago to supply electricity to a Stanly County aluminum smelter that once employed hundreds but has been closed for years. Alcoa now sells the electricity to commercial customers.

Alcoa said those sales have been down from $47 million in 2005 because of reduced rainfall and lower electricity demand and prices resulting from the recession.


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