SALEM — The North Shore could face “controlled blackouts” if the natural-gas power plant that Footprint Power plans to open in 2016 on the Salem waterfront is not ready on time, the operator of the New England power grid warned this week.
A legal filing Wednesday by ISO New England, the independent organization that manages the regional power supply, is the strongest statement yet of the need for electricity from the proposed Salem plant, now facing legal challenges.
“The outcome of this appeal,” wrote ISO General Counsel Ray Hepper, “may significantly affect the reliability of the electric system in New England.”
ISO’s 10-page motion also appears to be a strong repudiation of the position taken by the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental advocacy group that has appealed approvals won by the plant’s developer, Footprint Power of New Jersey, and has questioned the need for the plant.
Footprint and others have warned that if the appeals drag on for months before the state Supreme Judicial Court, it could impact pending financing and threaten the $800 million project.
Technically, ISO filed a “motion to intervene” in the case, took no position on CLF’s appeal, and requested only that the appeals be resolved soon, within a month or so, to allow it to plan for the region’s future energy needs.
But in doing so, ISO made a strong case for the need for the 692-megawatt Salem plant, a project it endorsed earlier this year.
“Among other things,” Hepper wrote, “CLF incorrectly claims that no electrical shortage is likely to occur if the Footprint facility is not available by June 1, 2016.”
To the contrary, he said, if the Salem plant is not ready on time, “the (Northeast/Boston) area is expected to face an electric capacity shortage, will not meet federal reliability criteria and could face controlled blackouts.”