Invenergy Wants Ratepayers to Fund Proposed Power Plant's Connection to Regional Grid

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

Rhode Island's Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) wants to know more about Invenergy’s interconnection problem regarding the Clear River Energy Center proposed for the woods of Burrillville. And according to the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF), it’s a big deal.

In a Dec. 11 letter to the EFSB, CLF is asking the three-member board to suspend Invenergy’s application until two lawsuits before the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) are resolved.

In the first lawsuit, Invenergy is refusing to sign an agreement to connect the proposed fossil-fuel power plant to the electric grid. ISO New England, the operator of the regional power grid, and National Grid are asking federal regulators to approve the deal anyway. In the second lawsuit, the Chicago-based energy company is asking FERC to exempt it from paying up to $164 million to fund the interconnection. Invenergy has said that money would simply be a “windfall” for ratepayers.

Invenergy has relied on ISO New England reports to justify its nearly 1,000-megawatt natural-gas/diesel facility. But the Illinois developer is now challenging the grid operator over paying for a grid connection.

“In other words, Invenergy is seeking to avoid interconnection costs that are its responsibility under the FERC-approved tariff,” CLF senior attorney Jerry Elmer said.

In the lawsuit, ISO New England describes Invenergy as having no basis for the challenge and the appeal is an “attempt to shirk paying for upgrades” at the 11th hour.

The group representing the six New England governors, New England States Committee on Electricity, and energy advocates Connecticut Office of Consumer Counsel and the New England Power Pool all contest Invenergy’s plea, arguing that ratepayers would shoulder the cost.

CLF believes there is no good outcome for Invenergy’s lawsuits. If Invenergy wins, then the interconnection cost will be paid by ratepayers. If it fails, Invenergy will have to post millions of dollars for building permits, which Elmer predicted the company will not do.

“In either case, we now know that Invenergy’s proposed fracked-gas and diesel-oil power plant will probably never be built,” Elmer said.

In a Dec. 1 letter to the EFSB, Invenergy wrote that the lawsuits are necessary to resolve the few remaining elements of the interconnection agreement.

The EFSB is expected to discuss the letter and the interconnection issue at its Dec. 12 at its office in Warwick, at 10:30 a.m. CLF was denied a request to speak, prompting the organization to submit a letter.

A prior hearing, scheduled for 9:30 a.m., will address a request by the town of Burrillville for an independent environmental analysis and the appointment of an independent expert to study adverse environmental impacts of the proposed power plant.

Also, Invenergy is seeking approval of a request to shield information from the public in recently submitted testimony. The town of Charlestown is requesting money for costs it has incurred since receiving intervenor status, such as legal fees and expert analysis.