Power grid operator disqualifies proposed Burrillville plant from electricity auction
PROVIDENCE, R.I. — The proposal to build a fossil fuel-burning power plant in Burrillville has been dealt another blow.
Invenergy was disqualified from trying to sell the second half of the power output from the so-called Clear River Energy Center at an upcoming auction. The operator of the New England power grid made the ruling because of permitting delays that have hit the controversial project.
The decision from Independent System Operator New England was announced by developer Invenergy on Wednesday in filings to the state Energy Facility Siting Board, the lead permitting authority for the $1-billion power plant that would have two generating units.
A spokeswoman for Invenergy said the decision has no impact on the power plant’s first unit — which cleared an ISO-NE auction last year — and she emphasized that it does not end plans for the second unit.
But it is a serious setback because power plant developers generally need to guarantee a buyer for their energy before building anything. As it stands, Invenergy has a deal in place to sell only half of its power.
In the filings with the siting board, Invenergy said that it disagreed with ISO-NE’s ruling but decided against lodging an appeal with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission because the likelihood that it would be granted “was determined to be remote.”
“ISO-New England has informed Invenergy that it will not qualify Clear River Energy Center’s Unit 2 to participate in the upcoming FCA12 auction due to permitting delays that have impacted the project schedule,” Invenergy said in a statement. “At the same time, ISO has informed us that the facility’s second unit remains eligible to participate in the 2019 (FCA13) auction.”
“We respect ISO’s decision, and expect to bid the project’s second unit in FCA13 as there remains a demonstrated need for the affordable, reliable energy from our project in the coming years.”
But opponents of the power plant interpreted the ruling differently. Jerry Elmer, senior attorney with the Conservation Law Foundation, called it a “bombshell.”
“This shows that even the ISO agrees that Invenergy is not needed,” he said in a statement.
Burrillville Town Manager Michael Wood said Gov. Gina Raimondo and the siting board should take note of the decision.
“Clearly Invenergy’s CREC power plant is not ready for prime time,” he said in a statement. “It appears that Invenergy has cut corners and taken short cuts and it’s starting to catch up to them now.”
Every February, ISO-NE holds an auction to secure generating capacity three years before it’s needed. The February 2018 auction — the one that the Clear River Energy Center has been barred from participating in — will tie up power for the 2021-22 supply year.
Invenergy has struggled to sell power from the power plant, which would primarily burn natural gas. In the February 2016 auction, the Chicago-based company was able to sell 485 megawatts, the capacity of the first generating unit, but was unable to sell power from the other unit. The second unit again failed to win selection in the February 2017 auction.
The permitting delays cited by ISO-NE have pushed the scheduled operating date of the power plant back a year from 2019 to 2020.
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 by meeting its capacity obligation in another way, such as through contracting with another power supplier.