Key Meetings Ahead for Proposed Power Plant

By TIM FAULKNER/ecoRI News staff

PROVIDENCE — The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) is hosting an informational meeting Oct. 29 to explain why it considers the proposed Burrillville power plant a “zombie.” The meeting will be held at the Rhode Island Medical Society, 405 Promenade St., from noon-1:30 p.m.

The lunch-hour meeting precedes an Oct. 31 hearing of the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB) that is expected to address a new motion by the town of Burrillville to reject the advisory opinion written by the Public Utilities Commission (PUC) that endorsed the proposed fossil-fuel power plant. The town argues that the report is “stale” and “outdated” and “therefore no longer relevant to current circumstances.”

The EFSB also is expected to address Burrillville’s previous motion to reject the PUC advisory opinion because of the fact that only one of the three PUC members wrote the report.

In the new motion, the town of Burrillville and CLF maintain that the PUC report is obsolete, and the entire power-plant application is in jeopardy because Invenergy Thermal Development lost a key energy contract issued by ISO New England, the operator of the regional power grid.

“If the EFSB grants the motion to reject the PUC advisory opinion, which the EFSB has the power to do, that would be another huge victory for the anti-Invenergy forces,” said Jerry Elmer, senior attorney for CLF.

Chicago-based Invenergy used the contract as justification for building the $1 billion power plant. The nearly 1,000-megawatt facility fulfills future demand for electricity in southeastern New England, according to Invenergy, and that the near-term loss of the contract doesn’t nullify the long-term need. Need is one of the key points that the EFSB will consider when it approves or denies the project.

The power-purchase agreement, called a capacity supply obligation (CSO), was cited by the PUC it its favorable opinion of the project. Invenergy has said the PUC report is still prescient and the loss of the CSO doesn’t refute the report’s assertion that a new cleaner-burning, fast-starting power plant will save ratepayers money and improve air quality, as it will replace older, more-polluting power stations. The proposed power plant’s ability to start and stop quickly allows it to deliver electricity when solar and wind energy is idle, according to Invenergy.

“Most important, the absence of a CSO does not equate to an absence of need — the erroneous point that (Burrillville and CLF) so ardently seeks to foist on this board,” Invenergy wrote in its plea that asks the EFSB to keep the PUC advisory opinion.

The state’s Energy Facility Siting Act (EFSA), which created the EFSB, gives the three-member board the authority to accept, reject, or modify advisory opinions.

It’s worth noting that the CSO was originally awarded to one of the two natural gas-fired turbines for the proposed Clear River Energy Center. To complicate matters for Invenergy, its efforts to gain a power agreement for turbine two was dealt a setback Sept. 28 when ISO New England barred the second generator from even applying for a power deal.

“The recent ISO decisions show that Invenergy is not needed, and I am confident that the EFSB does and will fully understand that point,” Elmer said.

Earlier this month, CLF and Burrillville asked the EFSB to consider as evidence the full rejection letter of turbine two from ISO New England to Invenergy.

Invenergy said it would allow the full qualification determination notification, or QDN, as evidence as long as CLF and the town of Burrillville don’t characterize the notice as proof that the Clear River Energy Center isn’t needed or wanted.

The EFSB hearing scheduled for Oct. 31 will be held at 89 Jefferson Blvd. in Warwick at 10 a.m.