Rhode Island regulators, in advisory opinion, find 345-kV line needed to connect Clear River Energy Center

The Rhode Island Public Utilities Commission, in a recent advisory opinion to the state Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB), said that the Burrillville Interconnection Project is needed to connect the proposed Clear River Energy Center (CREC) to the New England electric system.

As noted in the advisory opinion, Narragansett Electric d/b/a National Grid and Clear River Energy LLC in February 2017 filed with the EFSB a joint application to connect the proposed CREC to the electric transmission system by building the Burrillville Interconnection Project – a new 6.8-mile, 345-kV transmission line.

A National Grid spokesperson on April 12 told TransmissionHub that the new transmission line would extend from Invenergy’s proposed location for its CREC in Burrillville, R.I., to National Grid’s Sherman Road switching station, which is located about 6.8 miles away in Burrillville. About 6 miles of that would be along the existing National Grid transmission line ROW, he said.  

The advisory opinion noted that the EFSB issued a preliminary order that directed the commission to provide the EFSB with an advisory opinion as to whether:

  • There is a need for the proposed project to connect the proposed Clear River Energy Center to the electric transmission system should its application to build a combined-cycle electric generating facility in Burrillville, R.I. – which is pending before the EFSB – be approved
  • The proposed Burrillville Interconnection Project will be done at the lowest reasonable cost to the consumer, evaluating the reasonableness of the project cost, the cost impact on Rhode Island retail electric customers, and the costs relative to reasonable alternatives

According to the CREC’s website, the 900+ MW project – a nearly $1bn investment by Invenergy – will be powered by natural gas drawn from the nearby Algonquin pipeline, and there will not be any natural gas drilling at the site, or otherwise associated with the project.

In its advisory opinion, the commission said that it is of the opinion that based on the evidence presented, the proposed Burrillville Interconnection Project costs will not result in direct transmission related costs to ratepayers in Rhode Island and thus, the proposal represents the lowest reasonable cost to meet the need.

The commission said that it urges the EFSB, however, that it make all necessary orders and/or conditions in the event it approves the Burrillville Interconnection Project to ensure that Rhode Island will not end up with a “transmission line to nowhere,” thus ensuring the alignment of schedules and milestones between the CREC Project and the Burrillville Interconnection Project, which is the subject of the advisory opinion.

According to the companies’ witness, the proposed overhead alternative was the lowest-cost, feasible alternative, the commission said, adding that that 6.8-mile route consists of a 0.8-mile segment located on a new right of way (ROW) on property controlled by CREC, with the remaining six miles located on National Grid’s existing ROW. The two existing lines on the six-mile stretch will be repositioned to make room for the new interconnecting transmission line, the commission said.

The companies’ witness testified at a hearing that construction of the Burrillville Interconnection Project would occur simultaneously with the construction of the CREC. The commission also said that according to that witness, the overall project schedule is based on a 30- to 42-month timeframe, but that actual construction will take between 12 and 18 months to complete, with a projected completion date at the end of 2020. Through cross-examination, the witness agreed that, theoretically, the Burrillville Interconnection Project could proceed ahead of the CREC Project, the commission said.

“While likely to be a remote possibility where there is an interconnection and no completed generation facility, the [commission] nonetheless urges the EFSB to further clarify the two construction schedules and issue any appropriate orders and/or conditions to ensure alignment of schedules and milestones between the two projects,” the commission said.

Further discussing cost, the commission said that National Grid developed a conceptual grade estimate for the Burrillville Interconnection Project of $47.2m and those costs, plus ongoing operation and maintenance costs associated with the new line, will be recovered from Clear River Energy through the direct assignment cost provision in the transmission tariffs approved by FERC. Since the facilities will be paid for by Clear River Energy, National Grid will not earn a return on them, the commission said, adding that fees paid by Clear River for use of the National Grid ROW will be used to the benefit of ratepayers.

Therefore, the commission said, the evidence shows that the cost of the Burrillville Interconnection Project will not result in a direct transmission charge to Rhode Island ratepayers.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3058 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares, chief editor for TransmissionHub, has covered the U.S. power industry for the past 15 years. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines. She can be reached at clinares@endeavorb2b.com.