MY TURN DOUGLAS GABLINSKE

Burrillville plant key to R.I. power

The proposed Burrillville power plant has generated a lot of debate lately, from all sides of the issue. What’s missing from the arguments of the project’s opponents, however, is an understanding of just what’s at stake.

I’m encouraged by the regional grid operator’s recent capacity auction, which resulted in adequate supplies for the immediate future at relatively low rates. But the fact is, New England is facing an energy crisis. More than 10,000 megawatts of the 30,000 the region needs — a whopping one-third — will be going offline in the coming years. This includes the closure of the Vermont Yankee nuclear plant, with the Pilgrim nuclear plant potentially to follow. How will we fill that gap?

Conservation and energy efficiency measures alone won’t get us there. Renewable energy, however important to our future energy mix, is at least a decade away, if not two decades, from putting a meaningful dent in our energy gap. Brayton Point, the coal-fired electric plant, is slated to be shuttered in 2017. But if we don’t close that gap soon, the regional grid operators may require Brayton to keep running, just to keep the lights on! I’m sure none of my East Bay neighbors want to see Brayton Point running for much longer.

Like all Rhode Islanders, I’ve watched the electricity bill for my home go up and up. I shake my head when I see Rhode Island consistently ranked among the top five for the highest electric costs in the lower 48 states. I’ve watched as some of my neighbors and friends leave Rhode Island for less expensive states out west or down south.

The same holds true for businesses. I represent some of the largest energy users in the state. The members of the Energy Council of Rhode Island employ thousands of Rhode Islanders and play an important role in the fabric of our business and civic community. Their success is Rhode Island’s success. However diverse their businesses are, they all share the same concern about having affordable, reliable, predictable energy costs. Without affordable energy, their businesses suffer and jobs are at risk.

What is not so apparent is the lost opportunity to Rhode Island in expansion plans by businesses here that opt to expand in other parts of the country, costing us thousands and thousands of jobs. Our political leaders are feverishly trying to promote business growth in Rhode Island. However, they should not underestimate the impact that these high electricity rates have on lost employment opportunity in our state.

The Clear River Energy Center proposed for Burrillville would save Rhode Island ratepayers more than $200 million in just the first four years of the transmission and gas lines that this location in Burrillville offers. Do we really want to push almost a billion dollars in investment and hundreds of well-paying jobs across the state line?

We need realistic solutions to our energy needs. We all want to turn on our lights and warm our homes during the winter, as well as recharge our cell phones. I’m a supporter of energy efficiency and renewables and so are the members of the Rhode Island Energy Council, but these sources alone can’t solve the crisis facing us now.

Solving our energy puzzle is one of the most difficult challenges facing Rhode Island. The Clear River Energy Center is a vital part of the solution. It’s time to get serious about how we power our future.

— Douglas Gablinske is executive director of the Energy Council of Rhode Island. its operation. With the private investment of more than $700 million, this facility would also be one of the largest construction projects in Rhode Island’s history, bringing hundreds of new jobs to Rhode Island.

To the opponents of this project, I challenge you: If not this project, how else will we solve our energy crisis? Where else will we get the affordable energy that Rhode Island homeowners and business owners demand? How else will we ensure Brayton Point closes and stays closed? Simply saying “no” isn’t enough: What’s the solution?

If this project doesn’t get built in Burrillville, rest assured that it will get built somewhere else nearby in New England and the town and state taxes, as well as operational jobs created for the long haul, will all go away. The need, in Rhode Island, and the region, is too great to ignore. There are only so many sites in New England with access to