Low prices at energy auction could further case against power plant

Town Manager Michael Wood

BURRILLVILLE – Results of an energy auction held by the entity that runs the New England electric grid could further the case against Invenergy Thermal’s proposal to build a new power plant in Burrilville.

The preliminary results, released this week by ISO-NE, shows a surplus of energy, and that the clearing prices for capacity supply obligations are down to the lowest they’ve been in six years.

The fate of the proposed plant sits in the hands of the Energy Facility Siting Board, and whether or not the 1,000 megawatt gas-burning facility is needed to meet localized energy needs is expected to be a key element in the board’s decision.

Opponents of the plant this week cited the news as evidence of their case.

Jerry Elmer, Sr. Attorney from Conservation Law Foundation, noted “these newly released ISO-published Forward Capacity Auction results clearly show that the ISO does not need and does not want Invenergy’s fracked gas and diesel oil power plant. And the people of Rhode Island do not want to pave over a forest in Burrillville for an unneeded plant.”

Burrillville Town Manager Michael Wood also weighed in on the results.

“The preliminary results from ISO-NE’s Forward Capacity Auction 13 clearly show that there is no need for Invenergy’s new massive 1,000 MW gas fired power plant to meet Rhode island’s or the regions energy needs,” said Wood. “ISO-NE continues to add renewable resources into the mix- a trend that has grown faster than expected and which is expected to continue, thereby diminishing the need for fossil fuel power facilities.”

The auction, held this month with the intent to ensure the grid can produce energy needed for the region into 2023, showed  a surplus of 1,089 megawatts over the capacity requirement.

It also demonstrated an increasing reliance on renewable energy, and saw the awarding of some capacity supply obligation to a new natural gas plant in Connecticut, the Killingly Energy Center.  

“The fact that a Connecticut natural gas plant, the Killingly Energy Center, is one of the new resources and is able to provide 650-MW, further illustrates the lack of need for another new natural gas generating facility to meet need well into the future,” said Wood in a press release from the town in reaction to the results.

ISO-NE had awarded Invenergy one contract for energy production, but terminated that agreement in November, citing delays in the approval process. Invenergy had hoped to have the plant operational by June of 2019. Currently, the operation date is reported to be later than June 1, 2021.

It was reportedly the first time in the 22-year history of ISO New England that a CSO has been cancelled.

Opponents from the organization Keep Rhode Island Beautiful noted that capacity prices are down 79 percent from their 2015 peak, the year the Chicago-based developer first applied to build the plant.

“Energy use and energy prices are already going down year-over-year indicating both plenty of supply to meet the demand and that the proposed plant will not help significantly lower anyone’s energy prices,” the group noted in a statement.

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