A new coalition of business owners and local building trades unions is advocating for the construction of a proposed natural gas power plant in Burrillville.
The plant has been receiving much opposition from environmental advocates and Burrillville residents for the past couple years.
The coalition, Rhode Islanders for Affordable Energy, believes the power plant will bring down the cost of energy in the state.
Rhode Island doesn't produce any of its own fossil fuels, and therefore, must import them.
The residential sector in Rhode Island pays about 40 percent more for electricity than the national average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. The state's commercial sector pays 44.56 percent more.
Doug Gablinske, coalition member and executive director of The Energy Council of Rhode Island, said according to a report by ISO New England, the region's power grid operator, renewable energy is not yet as reliable as fossil fuels and won't be for decades.
"The reality is that those renewables cannot meet the demand that’s been required now or for the foreseeable future," Gablinske said.
The report said the grid will be producing about 15 percent less electricity between 2012 and 2020 as non-gas-fired power plants, such as the coal-fired Brayton Point Power Station in Somerset, Massachusetts, start to retire. ISO New England reported natural gas power plants are serving primarily as the replacements.
Gablinske said the opposition has been exaggerating the proposed power plant's environmental harm because the air pollution won't stay within the state's borders.
"Rhode Island does not have vertical walls that go up and hold in their emissions," Gablinske said. "Air moves around with the winds in all kinds of different directions, so this not a state (issue), it can’t be looked at in the context of just one state."
Natural gas power plants emit about 50 percent less greenhouse gases than coal-powered plants. However, methane, the main component of natural gas, has an impact on the atmosphere 25 times greater than carbon dioxide over a 100-year period.