Plans for controversial Burrillville power plant pushed back a year
PROVIDENCE — Invenergy has officially pushed back the opening of its proposed fossil fuel-burning power plant in Burrillville from 2019 to 2020.
Although observers of the controversial proposal have long suspected that, because of protracted opposition, Invenergy would fail to meet its 2019 target date for opening the $1-billion power plant, the Chicago-based company had remained mum on the issue.
But in a filing submitted this month to the state Energy Facility Siting Board, John Niland, director of business development for Invenergy, cites “delays in permitting” that have resulted in postponing the start date for the power plant to June 1, 2020.
When that day comes, only one of the facility’s two proposed generating units would go into operation. Invenergy has only been able to sell power to the regional power grid from that single 485-megawatt unit that would primarily burn natural gas. Power from the second unit has so far failed to clear auctions held by Independent System Operator New England.
Under the terms set by ISO-NE, Invenergy was required to start supplying power to the grid in 2019 from the first generating unit, but the company was allowed to push the timeline back one year if it could meet its capacity obligation in another way, such as through contracting with another power supplier.
Invenergy was able to find an alternative, which was approved last month during ISO-NE’s Annual Reconfiguration Auction. The company declined to provide further details, citing the confidentiality of such transactions with ISO-NE.
The 2019 target date for operation had been in place since Invenergy first announced the plan for the power plant in the summer of 2015. In a statement, Niland played down the import of the timeline change.
“The regional energy market is dynamic, and it’s not uncommon for capacity suppliers to adjust their timelines,” Niland said.
But opponents say the delay signals trouble for the project, known as the Clear River Energy Center. Jerry Elmer, senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, pointed specifically to Invenergy’s participation in the reconfiguration auction as evidence.
“What is significant is that a prerequisite of even being allowed to participate in the [auction] is a finding by the ISO that your plant is not needed for system reliability,” Elmer said. “That is, the ISO is saying that they can do just fine without Invenergy for the 2019-2020 period.”