EFSB rejects PUC opinion on need for Burrillville power plant

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WARWICK – The Rhode Island Energy Facility Siting Board voted on Wednesday, Oct. 31 to reject the two-year old Public Utilities Commission advisory opinion which had concluded there was a need for the proposed new Invenergy power plant – called the Clear River Energy Center.

Board members said the information in the advisory opinion is “stale” and much has happened since it was first issued in September of 2016.

The action comes in response to a motion filed by the town of Burrillville. In that motion, the town argued that the findings of the advisory opinion are outdated, and that it is therefore no longer relevant to current circumstances.

Attorneys representing the Conservation Law Foundation and the town of Burrillville noted that much has changed since the opinion was filed. Among the events cited was the fact that the proposed plant’s Capacity Supply Obligation has been recommended for termination. On September 20, the operator of the regional power grid – ISO-NE – took the unprecedented action of filing a request with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission seeking to terminate Clear River Energy Center’s contract.

The plant’s legal opposition also noted that one of proposed units has failed to obtain such a contract at three successive auctions. Unit Two was disqualified from last year’s auction, and because of significant delays in the project, it has also been recently disqualified from the next one. They also made the case that there’s a reduced need for power in the region, and that there’s an increase of production in solar, baseload renewables, and offshore wind.

“We are pleased with the board’s common sense decision,” said Burrillville Town Manager Michael Wood in reaction to the decision. “The town is painstakingly making the case that building a new power plant in Rhode Island is not justified.”

Whether Invenergy can prove that there is a need for the proposed new power plant is one of the key issues the EFSB must decide. Following the verdict, the EFSB will no longer take into consideration the earlier PUC opinion on this issue. Instead, the EFSB will decide the issue of need based on all the evidence presented, included updated testimony that will be filed by the parties.

EFSB members also voted to admit the first two pages of a document from ISO New England that CLF contends demonstrate the degree to which Invenergy has misstated facts before the EFSB. CLF also made a motion to have the EFSB take administrative notice of Invenergy’s post hearing memo on the issue of need, generated in response to the PUC’s advisory opinion hearing, which was also approved by the board.

Video from the meeting can be found here.