Invenergy Knowingly Exaggerated the Cost Savings to Customers from Its Proposed Power Plant

Jerry Elmer

Invenergy has a proposal before Rhode Island’s Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB) to build a new 900-megawatt fossil-fuel plant in Burrillville. CLF is litigating in both the EFSB and the state Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to prevent Invenergy from getting the permits it needs.

Today, CLF is filing in the PUC the testimony of two expert witnesses in our effort to stop Invenergy’s proposed power plant from moving forward. One of those experts is Christopher T. Stix, a financial analyst whose testimony analyzes and refutes Invenergy’s inaccurate projections of electric customer savings if the new power plant is built. You can see the full text of Mr. Stix’s testimony, here.

In this blog, I want to highlight one portion of Mr. Stix’s testimony that is especially shocking. It appears on pages 20 through 28 of the filed testimony.

On Thursday evening, March 31, at a public hearing of the Energy Facility Siting Board (EFSB), Invenergy presented grossly inflated figures for supposed ratepayer savings – figures that Invenergy knew at the time were wrong. To make matters worse, Invenergy told its lies at a public meeting in the Burrillville High School auditorium, in front of an audience of more than 700 people.

On that date, Invenergy presented a PowerPoint presentation that touted a supposed “$280 million in Savings” in big, green letters. The supposed savings are to come in just the first three years of the plant’s operation. Invenergy’s staffer, John Niland, said, “Talking about ratepayer savings, the analysis we’ve done looks at what happens to the cost of power to the region when you put in a plant like this. . . . That’s really what the $280 million number represents.” [EFSB March 31, 2016 Hearing Transcript, page 16, lines 8–11; 15–17.]

CLF and Invenergy agree that the bulk of ratepayer impacts from building Invenergy would come from the capacity market, not the energy market. As I discuss here, capacity and energy are different commodities, priced in different markets. To get to its $280 million in total savings, Invenergy calculated that Rhode Island ratepayers would save $120 million just in capacity, in just the first year that the plant is in operation. Invenergy first made its claim of $120 million in one-year capacity savings at an EFSB hearing on January 12 of this year (and repeated the same claim three months later at the March 31 public hearing).

In contrast, Mr. Stix calculated those first-year capacity-market savings at somewhere between zero and $36 million.

To be fair, Invenergy’s original estimate ($120 million) had first been made before the ISO auction, and Stix’s estimate (zero to $36 million) was made after the ISO auction. In other words, back in January, Invenergy was making a wild (grossly inflated) guess about the possible outcome of a future event – the not-yet-held ISO auction. When Stix made his estimate, he was looking back at the actual, real-world auction results.

But here is the thing. Once the ISO auction had been held (on February 8) everybody in the world (including Invenergy) could know what the actual, real-world results of the auction were: the one-year capacity-market savings from Invenergy would be somewhere between zero and $36 million.

But that did not prevent Invenergy from presenting the identical inaccurate, grossly inflated January calculation at the March 31 hearing of the EFSB.

That is, on March 31, Invenergy presented figures to the EFSB that Invenergy knew at the time – with absolute certainty – were false.

And, by the way, Invenergy told those lies in front of 700 people.

Is CLF absolutely sure that when Invenergy made its presentation on March 31, Invenergy actually knew at the time that its figures were false? Well – yes. In fact, we know that two different ways. First, all the information that was necessary for Invenergy to correct its figures was known to the whole world on February 8, when the ISO auction concluded. The March 31 EFSB hearing was more than 7 weeks after the ISO auction. Second, on April 22, Invenergy itself filed testimony in the PUC revising that $120 million figure down to $42 million. [Ryan Hardy Testimony, page 13, lines 20-21.] Of course, nothing at all changed between March 31 and April 22; all the necessary information was in the public domain on February 8.

The short of it is this: On March 31 Invenergy lied to the EFSB and to the public, and Invenergy knew it was lying.

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