SouthCoast Region Would Benefit Economically by Reusing Brayton Point Site as a Clean Energy Hub, New Report Shows

Natural Gas Would Not Meet the Region’s Economic or Environmental Needs

Media Contacts:

Suzanne Morse, Ph: (617) 646-1020, smorse@oneillandassoc.com

Sarah Jackson, Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., 617-453-7060

Pauline Rodrigues, Coalition for Clean Air South Coast, 508-674-4242

Becky Smith, Clean Water Action, C: 617-314-2347, W: 617-338-8131

Sylvia Broude, Toxics Action Center, C: 203-589-9989, W: 617-747-4407

Somerset, MA (March 3, 2016) – A new report released today assessing reuse options for the Brayton Point coal-fired power plant argues that the SouthCoast’s economic development needs would be best met by turning the site into a model of renewable energy generation. The report, by Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., was prepared for the Coalition for Clean Air South Coast, Clean Water Action and Toxics Action Center. 

The study, Reimagining Brayton Point: A guide to assessing reuse options for the Somerset community, also says that altering the site into a clean energy hub - rather than converting the plant into a natural gas facility - will be less risky and produce the best long-term results in terms of revenue and economic development for Somerset and the surrounding communities. 

“Instead of building another large, new gas fired power plant in southern New England, investing in solar, wind, and other clean energy infrastructure on the Brayton Point site could serve the town’s goals while simultaneously attracting green industry with strong prospects for future economic growth,” said Sarah Jackson of Synapse Energy Economics, Inc., who prepared the report. “These clean energy investments would also help Massachusetts meet its climate protection goals.”

Among the most promising opportunities outlined in Reimagining Brayton Point is the potential for Brayton Point to act as an on-shore transmission site for wind power generated far off shore.  According to the assessment, the high voltage transmission infrastructure at Brayton Point could accommodate up to 2,000 MW of offshore wind at an estimated cost of $20 million (compared to the potential $1.3 billion price tag to convert the facility into a large-scale natural gas plant).  

According to the report, on a per megawatt (MW) basis, generating electricity with renewable resources creates more jobs than generation from natural gas and other fossil fuel resources. Far offshore wind developer Deepwater Wind has estimated that a proposed project near Block Island will employ 300 construction workers. The report highlights a commitment from Deepwater Wind to make “Payment in Lieu of Taxes” (PILOT) contributions to municipalities impacted by their development, which demonstrates that communities will not lose out on generating revenue at the site if they work with renewable energy providers.  

“Town leaders and other residents are right to focus on the need for PILOT payments to protect the community’s interests when it comes to Brayton Point’s reuse,” said Pauline Rodrigues from Coalition for Clean Air South Coast.  “This assessment shows that sustainable energy developers expect to offer PILOT contributions for their projects, which should bring comfort to the property owners and Town officials as they consider what makes sense for the site and our surrounding communities.”

Reimagining Brayton Point identifies economic reasons against turning the coal-fired plant into a natural gas facility, especially since the affordability of natural gas fluctuates even while the jobs created at natural gas plants are significantly lower than from any other resource.  Additionally, the community would face the risky economics associated with the New England region’s growing over-reliance on natural gas.

“Residents of Southeast Massachusetts understand that this transition away from fossil fuels must happen in order to diversify energy sources, jobs creation and longevity, and to answer the demand for less polluting economic and industrial centers of the region,” Becky Smith of Clean Water Action stated. “We will deliver approximately 1500 postcards and handwritten letters to Governor Baker from area residents later this week calling on his leadership for this just and forward-moving transition. This new report provides technical economic analysis to back up what everyday people seem to understand about this commonsense strategy for our communities.”

The report also examines the potential to turn Brayton Point into a clean energy hub that allows for clean energy demonstration projects and public access to the waterfront property as well as exploring large-scale energy storage, solar photovoltaics and anaerobic digestion as clean energy options. It also highlights non-energy related uses for the site.

“Brayton Point can become a regional and national model for converting outdated, polluting energy facilities into a clean energy hub in ways that will benefit the community,” said Sylvia Broude, Executive Director of Toxics Action Center.  “Town leaders, the property owners, and State officials have the opportunity to address the Town’s economic challenges while protecting public health and meeting the region’s energy goals. We are looking forward to speaking with them about the recommendations in the report.”