Invenergy, the developer of a proposed, controversial natural gas power plant in Burrillville, is now barred from participating in an important regional electricity auction next February, potentially making it harder for the project to move forward.
During the annual Forward Capacity Auction, various energy companies bid to provide electricity for the region. The auction ensures there will be enough energy available to power the region in coming years.
If a company clears an auction, they secure a capacity supply obligation, which means they're paid per kilowatt a month with ratepayers' money in exchange for having their demand resource, such as a power plant, up-and-running three years after the auction date.
Capacity supply obligations are a guaranteed revenue stream for demand resources, which makes companies more likely to secure a loan to build their project.
Invenergy's first 485-megawatt turbine cleared an auction in February 2016, but they still haven't secured a capacity supply obligation for their second unit. The second turbine, approximately 500 megawatts, failed to clear auctions in 2016 and 2017 and has now been disqualified for the auction next year.
Jerry Elmer, senior attorney for the opposing environmental advocacy group, Conservation Law Foundation, said ISO New England, the region’s electricity grid operator, kept Invenergy out of the auction because their power is unnecessary.
“If the electricity were needed, then ISO would look for a way to get Invenergy into the auction,” Elmer said. “The fact that Invenergy was bounced out of the auction shows that nobody thinks that the electricity from Invenergy is really needed.”
However, Invenergy said they were omitted because of "delays in the permitting process and deferrals in the ordering of major equipment that have resulted from those delays."
In an emailed statement, Invenergy said there is a need for the power plant and they expect to bid again in the 2019 auction.
The Conservation Law Foundation filed a motion this morning with Rhode Island's Energy Facility Siting Board, which is responsible for approving construction of the power plant, requesting new opinions about the power plant from the state's energy and planning departments be filed. The foundation is also requesting pre-filed discovery be reopened so they can get more information on Invenergy's disqualification.