Falling demand raises doubts about power plants

BROCKTON, MASSACHUSETTS - Two Massachusetts power plant projects are on hold due to falling demand for electricity, raising questions about whether a proposed Brockton plant will be next.

The developer behind the two delayed projects, in Billerica and Uxbridge, says he believes other power plant projects around the state are facing the same roadblocks.

“I think it’s across the board,” said Joseph Fitzpatrick, president and chief executive of DG Clean Power.

The company recently won a permit from the state for the Billerica plant, but plans to delay construction for one or two years, Fitzpatrick said. The company also won’t begin seeking approvals for the Uxbridge project until at least a year from now.

The reason: demand for power is dropping due to the recession and conservation efforts, he said. New power plants can’t get financing under such circumstances, Fitzpatrick said.

“Clearly, it’s going to impact the in-service date of some of these plants,” he said.

Power consumption fell by 1.9 percent last year in New England, said Marcia Blomberg, a spokeswoman for electricity overseer ISO New England.

The organization’s forecasts are also dropping. Power consumption will be 4 percent lower this year and 5 percent lower next year than had been previously forecast in a 2008 report, Blomberg said.

Most current power plant projects — including the 350-megawatt Brockton plant, first proposed in 2007 — were drawn up at a time when electricity forecasts were going up, not down.

Still, the company behind the Brockton plant contends the project will move forward on schedule. The plant is slated to open in 2011.

“The project is on firm footing,” said Wesley Eberle, a spokesman for Advanced Power.

Eberle said the company believes power demand will eventually rise, and the company is taking a long-term view.

He also said the project will not have trouble finding financing due to project partners such as Siemens Financial Services.

The project is awaiting a final approval from the state Energy Facilities Siting Board to move forward.

The board, which granted its approval to the Billerica plant, has not yet scheduled a vote on the Brockton project.

The project also needs numerous local approvals, including at least one zoning variance, for which the company has not yet applied, said Drew Hoyt, a Plymouth lawyer who has represented the city of Brockton in the legal case of the project.

The plant would burn natural gas and diesel fuel and be built off Oak Hill Way on the city’s south side.

The project has faced opposition from Brockton officials and residents amid concerns over possible health impacts and the location of the plant near homes, schools and large numbers of low-income and minority residents.


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