Above: Coal protest at Brayton Point, MA
From a Better Future Project: After years of organizing and our summer of bold actions, Brayton Point, the largest coal plant in New England, is finally shutting down.
Brayton Point to shut down as of June 2017
Just five weeks after closing on the purchase of the Brayton Point Power Station, new owners Equipower, a subsidiary of investment partners Energy Capital Markets of Short Hills, N.J., disclosed Monday that they intend to shutter the plant as of June 2017.
The Conservation Law Foundation immediately declared this the “death knell” for coal-fired power plants in New England.
The decision was spurred by failure to agree with the region’s power grid managing company, ISO New England, which cut one-third from Brayton Point’s proposed pricing arrangement for future years.
The decision was conveyed in five plain documents filed with ISO New England by Equipower and obtained by The Standard-Times.
Equipower, which renamed the plant Brayton Point Energy LLC, did not return calls seeking comment. But Karen Wood, director of communications for the Conservation Law Foundation, said the decision triggers a 90-day review of the situation by ISO New England, just as was conducted when the coal-fired Salem Harbor Power Station was closed.
CLF has been sharply critical of Brayton Point, issuing a study last winter, months before the sale, concluding that operating the power plant — which employs nearly 200 people — no longer made sense economically, given changes in the energy supply system, especially natural gas.
Brayton Point, built in the 1960s, burns tens of thousands of tons of coal annually, and with 1,500 megawatts, is the biggest coal-fired power station in New England, with four large generators and a smaller diesel one.
It is routinely held up as one of the biggest polluters in New England. During recent years, Dominion invested more than $1 billion in upgrades and pollution control, including two 500-foot water cooling towers to stop the overheating of Mount Hope Bay.
Dominion Energy of Virginia sold it and two Illinois plants to Equipower in late August for $650 million.
“If Brayton Point can’t make it economically, no coal plant can make it,” Jonathan Peress, director of the CLF’s Clean Energy Program, told The Standard-Times. “This is the death knell for coal-fired power in new England.”
“This is the largest coal-fired power plant in New England with the lowest cost of production of any coal fired power plant,” he said.
“If they can’t make it, coal is dead in New England.
“I think it’s fair to say that we predicted this,” he said.
He said that CLF learned of the news through ISO-New England, since CLF holds a seat on the reliability committee.
While there will be an automatic 90-day review of the decision, Peress said that the move is “irrevocable.” As of May 2017, he said, Brayton Point will no longer be able to sell to the electrical grid in New England.
For Somerset, the closing could be a sharp blow to taxpayers. Brayton Point has paid as much as $15 million a year in property taxes. Selectmen Chairman Donald Setters did not return a call seeking comment.