Battle Over $700M Invenergy Plant Is Far From Over
Tuesday, September 25, 2018
Powerful elected officials have flipped and flopped positions and one of America’s strongest environmental legislators -- U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse -- won’t take a stand on the project.
Now, the organization that buys and transmits energy in the region has thrown the process in the air.
The latest development is last week's letter from the ISO — the regional transmission organization for New England — which some are hoping is a death blow for the gas-powered energy plant proposed for Burrillville.
The letter from ISO was to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) and unceremoniously requested the New England grid be released from their obligation to buy Invenergy’s power.
Proponents and opponents disagree if the ISO development cripples the Invenergy effort or just adds another obstacle, but one thing is for sure -- the ISO decision is a major blow to the project.
ISO wrote in their letter to FERC, “Invenergy has not made sufficient progress to achieve Clear River Unit 1’s critical path schedule milestones, and the commercial operation date for Clear River Unit 1 is more than two years beyond June 1, 2019…”
Some environmental leaders believe the ISO letter is a critical nail to project, which has strong support from organized labor.
Burrillville Town Manager Michael Wood said about the ISO, “Most notably there is no need for Invenergy’s new gas-fired power plant. Renewables are coming online faster than expected- and in fact, a surplus in capacity is expected.”
“[The ISO] filing is proof positive of what CLF has argued from day one: Invenergy's plant is simply not needed," Jerry Elmer, senior attorney at CLF, said in a statement. "It's time for Invenergy to admit defeat and withdraw its permit application."
For the town, who has been battling the plant for years, it is cautionary about the impact of the ISO decision. “We will evaluate this action by ISO-NE, but we are not underestimating Invenergy. Even with the delays and without putting a shovel in the ground to build CREC, the company has managed to make a gross profit of $26 million dollars, by selling power at above current mark,” said Wood.
Invenergy has a 60 day appeal period on ISO-NE's actions.
“Rhode Islanders need access to cleaner and cheaper sources of power, and Invenergy will keep our commitment to meeting that need with the Clear River Energy Center,” said, Daniel Ewan, Vice President, Thermal Development at Invenergy in a statement. “Rhode Island ratepayers already pay some of the highest power prices in the nation. With record power demand this summer and the projected retirement of ‘at-risk’ power plants in New England on the horizon, the need for the Clear River Energy Center is unmistakable.”
And, the company’s Rhode Island communication firm says that the ISO decision was, de facto, necessary due to the length of the regulatory process.
“The ISO request to terminate the Invenergy capacity supply obligation is not a project killer. The permitting delays meant that Clear River would not be online in time to meet the capacity obligation and thus ISO had no choice but to request that FERC terminate the contract,” said Jonathan Duffy of Duffy and Shanley in an email to GoLocal.
“They can build the plant without a supply obligation and enter the forward capacity auction when the plant is permitted. The decision to terminate was based on a timeline, not need,” Duffy added.
In 2015, the plant was announced with great fanfare. Governor Gina Raimondo pushed the plant as a pro-business, pro-jobs project. She has taken thousands in campaign contributions from top Invenergy executives.
During the campaign for re-election, however, she has been more muted and has said that the regulatory process should proceed unencumbered.
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