$1B power plant proposed in R.I. faces another delay
Invenergy is pushing back the opening of its proposed $1-billion power plant in Burrillville by another year, to 2021, because of permitting delays in connecting the facility to the electric grid, the company says, which could jeopardize a deal to sell power generated by the plant.
PROVIDENCE — Invenergy is pushing back the opening of its proposed $1-billion power plant in Burrillville by another year, to 2021, because of permitting delays in connecting the facility to the electric grid, the company says.
It is the second major change in a matter of months in the timeline for the Clear River Energy Center, the 1,000-megawatt fossil-fuel-burning power plant that Invenergy proposed in 2015 and wanted to have up and running by 2019. More importantly, it may undermine an agreement that Invenergy has secured to sell power from the plant.
In July, the Chicago company notified the state Energy Facility Siting Board that it would have to postpone the facility’s start date until 2020 because of delays in the permitting process for the project, which has encountered stiff opposition from the Town of Burrillville and environmental groups.
In a filing submitted to the siting board earlier this week, Invenergy said that it is now targeting June 1, 2021, to start commercial operations. National Grid does not expect to be able to complete a seven-mile transmission line from an existing switching station to the power plant until December 2020, the filing says, citing delays in the permitting process, which is also being handled by the siting board.
Ted Kresse, a spokesman for National Grid, said the filing doesn’t accurately reflect the situation. National Grid has been waiting for Invenergy to provide a form of financial security, as well as authorization from the company to start design work and buying equipment, said Kresse.
“However, to date, [the Clear River Energy Center] has not provided the required security nor authorized National Grid to proceed,” Kresse said. “National Grid remains committed to work with Clear River Energy to deliver the interconnection project in a timely manner, but we also must consider the potential burden and costs in the event CREC does not take the necessary steps to progress their project.”
John Niland, director of business development for Invenergy, declined further comment on the nature or cause of the delays.
“We will work toward achieving an earlier in-service date,” he said.
National Grid and Invenergy had requested expedited permitting for the transmission line, but the siting board turned them down. Final hearings on the application for the line aren’t set to begin until April 30.
A lawyer for the Conservation Law Foundation, which is among the leaders of the opposition to the power plant, said the interconnection problems are yet more evidence that the project isn’t ready to move forward.
“The longer the [siting board] case goes on, the more unforced errors Invenergy makes, showing once again how unlikely it is that Invenergy can either get the required permit or build its proposed fossil fuel power plant,” said Jerry Elmer, senior attorney with the foundation.
The postponement is just the latest setback for the controversial project.
Most notably, Invenergy has only been able to sell half of the power plant’s electric capacity so far. The other half has failed to clear two auctions already held by Independent System Operator New England — the nonprofit operator of the regional power grid — and has been barred from the upcoming February auction because of permitting difficulties.
Securing capacity obligations, as they’re known, is a crucial step in the development process, because they guarantee revenue and help attract financing. Invenergy hasn’t given up on the second unit, and the company says it still plans to participate in the 2019 auction.
But another potential complication has arisen because of the changes to the power plant’s timeline.