By - Jim Vess

Invenergy’s planned Rhode Island natural gas plant lost out to renewables and energy efficiency

Energize Weekly, November 13, 2019

Invenergy’s proposed, large-scale, natural gas-fired power plant in Rhode Island was undone by delays that enabled renewable power and market efficiencies to overtake the project, according to state regulators.

In August, the Rhode Island Energy Siting Board voted to deny Invenergy a permit for the proposed 850-megawatt (MW) to 1,000-MW natural gas-fired plant. On Nov. 5, the board issued a detailed final order laying out its reasons.

Invenergy filed an application in October 2015 for the combined-cycle electric generating facility to be located in Burrillville, R.I. What followed was a string of delays.

“The proceedings in this docket took a long time,” the board said in its order. “And Invenergy’s case was not helped by the lengthy delays. The market changes that accrued over the four forward capacity auctions conducted during the pendency of Invenergy’s application undercut the credibility of Invenergy’s original arguments on the issue of need. It is worth noting that the vast majority of delays were caused by the Applicant.”

During those four years, there was a reduction in peak load on the regional ISO New England (ISO-NE) grid, and in September 2018, ISO-NE moved to terminate a capacity supply obligation for one of the Invenergy plant units saying it was no longer needed.

The siting board called that “an extraordinary choice” by the grid operator and a sign that the plant was not needed.

In addition, the board called the rapid expansion of renewable generation sources in the region “remarkable.”

“The pace at which renewables, storage, and new and additional energy efficiency measures were coming on line exceeded” Invenergy’s modeling forecasts, the board said.

The board cited the recently approved 400-MW offshore wind procurement, which will be able to generate about a quarter of Rhode Island’s annual electricity demand and also noted that there were comparable large-scale wind projects being developed in Massachusetts and Connecticut.

The board also said that energy efficiency programs were robust. In 2019, more than 4,000 MW of energy efficiency and demand response measures were cleared for providing capacity in the ISO-NE market, the order said.

The board was also opposed to Invenergy’s “insistence” on a 20-year long-term forecast for the plant. Invenergy contended that the state Energy Facility Siting Act called for long-term planning.

But the board said the statewide planning program calls for a balanced approach to short-term and long-term energy needs.

One of the goals of the state’s Energy 2035 plan, the board said, is “to move away from [the state’s] heavy reliance on natural gas. In no sector is that reliance greater than the electric sector.”

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