Hearings on Burrillville power plant suspended

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BURRILLVILLE – The Energy Facility Siting Board has suspended hearings on Invenergy’s proposal to build a power plant in town pending the decision in a federal case on termination of a contract the developer has to supply energy capacity in New England.

The delay came at the request of the town of Burrillville and the Conservation Law Foundation – the two parties that have been opposing the plant at hearings before the EFSB – as well as Invenergy.

EFSB’s decision follows news last week that Independent System Operator New England – the operator of the region’s power grid – has asked to terminate their agreement with the power plant developer. The contract, known as a capacity supply obligation, was awarded to the Chicago-based company at an auction with the expectation that the facility would be up and running by 2019. Due to regulatory setbacks, that date has been moved back to 2021 at the earliest.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission must still rule on ISO-NE’s request to break the contract – a decision expected to be issued by mid-November. Termination could have major impact on Invenergy’s plans, as the company lobbies such agreements to secure financing, and has already made millions by reselling the power allotment.

Opponents say the contract has allowed Invenergy to profit off of ratepayers, buying electricity at a discounted rate to supply to the grid.

“No doubt this is a big setback for Invenergy,” said Town Manager Michael Wood in a note following last week’s news. “Burrillville will thoroughly evaluate this action by ISO-NE, but we are not underestimating Invenergy. Even with the delays, and without putting a shovel in the ground to build CREC, the company has managed to make a gross profit of $26 million dollars, so it’s very possible they are still working with the ratepayers money.”

The ruling by EFSB Wednesday morning led Jerry Elmer, senior attorney for CFL to declare the plant proposal “dead,” an assertion disputed by Invenergy representatives.

Wood, and attorneys fighting on behalf of the town, say that ISO-NE’s request to terminate the contract proves that the power the proposed Clear River Energy Center is set to provide to the region is not needed.

“Much has changed over the three years since Invenergy made its initial application,” said Wood. “Most notably there is no need for Invenergy’s new gas fired power plant. Renewables such as solar, wind and hydro are coming on line faster than expected – and in fact, a surplus in capacity has been projected.”

FERC has 60 days to issue a ruling, after which EFSB is expected to meet for a public status hearing on the plant. The delay means the board will not issue a final ruling on the project until at least February.

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