Biz bits

Biomass plant to add 75 jobs in Waycross


ATLANTA --- Gov. Sonny Perdue announced that two European companies are bringing a $150 million bioenergy production plant to south Georgia.

The Waycross plant, Georgia BioMass LLC, will create 75 jobs and is expected to produce 750,000 tons of wood pellets annually. RWE Innogy of Germany is the investor, and BMC of Sweden will develop the facility.

The companies plan to create the world's largest renewable energy capacity of wood pellets at the plant and will use the pellets to meet the growing European demand for renewable energy.

Duke Energy granted rate boost in South Carolina

CHARLOTTE, N.C. - South Carolina regulators have approved a general rate increase for Duke Energy, the first in the state in nearly 20 years.

The S.C. Public Service Commission on Wednesday approved a 5.2 percent overall rate increase, agreed to by key parties in November. The decision will increase Duke's S.C. revenues by $74.1 million.

Under terms of an agreement between Duke, the commission's consumer-advocacy staff and large industrial customers, the actual increase will be 3.1 percent.

Typical residential customer bills will go up to between $90 and $93 a month, compared to the current average of between $80 and $87.

Jim Turner, president of Duke's regulated utilities, said the decision strikes a balance between the utility's need to adjust rates with economic challenges facing customers today.

Duke has about 600,000 South Carolina customers.

Home building falls; wholesale prices up

WASHINGTON --- The housing market remains a significant risk to the economy, data Wednesday showed, as bad weather across much of the country hammered the construction industry.

Construction of new homes and apartments fell 4 percent in December to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 557,000 from an upwardly revised 580,000 in November, the Commerce Department said. Applications for future projects, however, increased strongly as the industry ramps up for the spring selling season.

Meanwhile, inflation pressures at the wholesale level eased in December as a drop in energy prices offset a big jump in food costs. The Labor Department said Wednesday that wholesale prices edged up 0.2 percent last month, much slower than the 1.8 percent surge in November. Energy prices, which had been up for two months, fell in December.

'New York Times' will charge for Web usage

NEW YORK --- The New York Times says it will charge readers for full access to its Web site starting in 2011, a risky move aimed at increasing online revenue without driving away advertisers that want the biggest possible audience.

The Times said Wednesday that it will allow free access to a certain number of articles each month and then charge users for additional content. Specifics weren't provided. Print subscribers would still have free access.