The hearings on Invenergy‘s proposed $1 billion fracked gas and diesel oil burning power plant, aimed at the pristine forests of northwest Rhode Island resumed this morning at the Energy Facilities Siting Board (EFSB). Picking up where he left off last Wednesday, Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) Senior Attorney Jerry Elmer resumed his cross-examination of Invenergy’s expert witness Ryan Hardy.

Elmer’s cross-examination began with a series of press releases issued over a three-year period by ISO-New England, the independent operator of the New England electricity grid, that demonstrate that Invenergy’s proposed power plant is not needed because there is a surplus of electricity capacity in New England without Invenergy.

As Elmer explains, “Once a year, ISO-New England, the operator of the New England electricity grid, runs a so-called ‘Forward Capacity Auction‘ (FCA) to procure enough electricity generating capacity to keep the electricity grid safe and reliable – basically, to keep the lights on. During the EFSB hearings last week, EFSB members expressed interest in the amount of surplus generating capacity the ISO procured in the three Forward Capacity Auctions that the ISO has conducted since Invenergy filed its application. CLF is very pleased that EFSB members are focusing on the surplus capacity procured in these FCAs because this is strong evidence that Invenergy’s proposed plant is not needed.”

The first ISO press release, dated February 11, 2016, reports on the results of Forward Capacity Auction 10 (FCA-10), which procured capacity for the period starting June 1, 2019. In that FCA, the ISO needed to procure 34,151 megawatts (MW) of electricity generating capacity; the ISO had 40,131 MW of capacity competing in the auction, and the ISO actually procured 35,567 MW of capacity, 1,416 MW more than it was seeking. The surplus was greater than the 1,000 MW of Invenergy’s entire project.

The second ISO press release, dated February 9, 2017, reports on the results of Forward Capacity Auction 11 (FCA-11), which procured capacity for the period starting June 1, 2020. In that FCA, the ISO needed to procure 34,075 MW of electricity generating capacity; the ISO had 40,463 MW of capacity competing in the auction, and the ISO actually procured 35,835 MW of capacity, a surplus of fully 1,926 MW, nearly double Invenergy’s entire project.

The third press release, dated February 8, 2018, reports on the results of Forward Capacity Auction 12 (FCA-12), which procured capacity for the period starting June 1, 2021. In that FCA, the ISO needed to procure 33,725 MW of electricity generating capacity; the ISO had 40,612 MW competing in the auction, and the ISO actually procured 34,827 MW of capacity, a surplus of 1,102 MW, again more than Invenergy’s entire project.

Invenergy provided the graphic table below per request of the EFSB. For the three FCAs conducted since Invenergy’s proposed power plant has entered the market (FCAs 10, 11 and 12), ISO New England has consistently purchased more power than has been needed.

But this chart tells only part of the story. What the chart does not show is the even larger amount of energy qualified to bid into the auction that was not picked up by ISO New England. In other words, there is a vast quantity of energy out there that the ISO could have, but did not purchase.

Under questioning from Elmer, Hardy admitted that ISO New England has a considerable excess of fast-ramping energy. “There are in fact thousands of megawatts of energy qualified to enter the market,” said Elmer, that did not but could have been cleared. This energy is never accounted for by Invenergy when talking about the need for the power plant. Hardy split hairs over this point, but never seemed to fully account for this vast amount untapped energy.

The thread of Elmer’s cross-examination was lost when the room was cleared because the topic turned to confidential information being discussed. This is too bad, because it makes it impossible for the public to know what is being discussed or if due diligence is being followed by our public officials.

Last week, Hardy indicated that this graphic, which he designed, illustrates that the more energy that enters a market, the less the energy will cost:

This week, Hardy called his own graphic and his explanation last week an “over simplification.”

When Michael McElroy, lawyer for the Town of Burrillville asked that the room be cleared to discuss more confidential information, I left with all my electronics. A minute later Invenrgy’s John Niland came out into the hallway with my bag, saying that the Board had asked him to deliver my bag to me. The implication being that I would somehow secretly record a confidential meeting, which is an insult my my integrity.


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