The company proposing to build a natural gas-fired power plant in Burrillville is billing the project as a solution to alleviate future energy shortages and rising energy costs in New England. But two experts testifying on behalf of the Conservation Law Foundation filed written testimonies with the state’s Public Utilities Commission disputing those statements.
Several power plants in New England will retire in the coming years. Company officials with Chicago-based Invenergy say the region needs the Burrillville power plant to replace these old power generators and ensure the lights stay on in New England. Opponents of the project disagree.
“The Invenergy power plant is not needed in the short-term or medium-term or long-term,” said Jerry Elmer, Conservation Law Foundation's senior attorney. He's citing one witness testifying on behalf of CLF, which is participating in the review process underway with the state’s Energy Facility Siting Board. Elmer said Robert Fagan reached that conclusion after analyzing figures from the regional electricity grid operator, ISO-New England.
In an auction designed to secure the region’s future energy needs, ISO-New England accepted Invenergy’s bid for 485 megawatts from the Burrillville power plant out of 997 megawatts the company qualified to bid.
That power would be included in the region’s energy mix for the fiscal year 2019. Invenergy officials say that confirms the region's need for the power plant, but Elmer says the fact that less than half of its energy was purchased proves otherwise.
The electricity grid operator, which also takes into consideration future power plant retirements in its planning, also secured a surplus of energy for that same period (it accepted 35,567 megawatts to meet 34,151 megawatts of energy).
“So when you look at what we need in Rhode Island and you take out all of Invenergy and you take out all of the plants that are closing down, like the Pilgrim nuclear plant, there is still an excess of electricity in Rhode Island and in the rest of New England,” said Elmer.
Elmer’s says other renewable sources and energy efficiency could replace the 485 megawatts of power that would come from Invenergy power plant. In addition, Elmer said the ratepayer savings that the company projects are also exaggerated.
“In the PUC proceeding, Invenergy says ratepayers in Rhode Island could save up to $120 million just in the first year that the plant is operating,” said Elmer.
But a second expert, Christopher Stix, said the savings would actually be somewhere between 0 and $36 million dollars.
“And in fact, Invenergy later acknowledged with a filing with the PUC that the figures they had given previously were incorrect,” said Elmer.
Invenergy company officials declined an interview for this report. A spokeswoman said the company will provide a response through its filings with the PUC.