Controversial Burrillville Power Plant Opening At Least One Year Late

Jul 12, 2017

Invenergy, the company that wants to build a controversial, natural gas-fired power plant in Burrillville, is pushing back the plant's start date by at least a year. 

Invenergy originally secured a capacity supply obligation in February 2016 from ISO New England, the region's electricity grid operator, for one 485-megawatt unit. That means ISO New England agreed to pay Invenergy a certain amount per kilowatt a month in return for the plant being completed by June 1, 2019.

However, John Niland, development director for Invenergy, testified this month for Rhode Island's Energy Facility Siting Board that "changes to the water supply" are delaying the permitting process.

Invenergy has had issues securing a water source to cool the power plant, also known as the Clear River Energy Center, and was recently sued by Burrillville and the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental advocacy organization, for its water contract with Johnston.

Invenergy is expecting to have the plant online no earlier than June 1, 2020.  

Niland also testified that the power plant's second turbine hasn't received a capacity supply obligation from ISO New England, and if it does next year, won't be online until June 1, 2021, "assuming no additional permitting or other delays." 

Jerry Elmer, senior attorney at CLF, said the delay is good news for organizations like his that oppose the power plant.

"Overall, the delay makes it less likely that the Invenergy power plant will ever receive a permit from the Energy Facility Siting Board," Elmer said.

Elmer said the delay will also make it harder for Invenergy to justify building the plant in the future.

"As we know, with new renewable resources coming online every year, the electricity from Invenergy will be needed less and less and less in each successive year," Elmer said. 

Niland said in a statement the power plant will be needed and Invenergy plans to keep moving forward with the project.   

"Our plans are to deliver power to the grid starting in 2020, when the Clear River Energy Center will help fill a roughly 10,000-megawatt gap that ISO-NE predicts will occur over the next decade with a third of the region’s energy supply leaving the grid," Niland said. 

Since Invenergy had a capacity supply obligation for 485 megawatts, they had to clear themselves of that obligation or face penalties. One option is for entities to sell their obligation to another power supplier in a reconfiguration auction run by ISO New England. 

Invenergy participated in a reconfiguration auction last month, however both Invenergy and ISO New England said the results of that auction are confidential.