Springfield, N.H., biomass plant to shut down after subsidy efforts falter

  • Trucks carry chipped wood from logging jobs within 75 miles of the Springfield Power biomass plant to be burned to generate electricity, Wednesday, August 2, 2018. The plant burns about 640 tons of the chips per day. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com. James M. Patterson

Valley News Business Writer
Published: 10/18/2019 10:13:36 PM
Modified: 10/18/2019 10:13:21 PM

SPRINGFIELD, N.H. — The final blow appears to have fallen on the struggling Springfield biomass power plant as the company that owns the facility is closing it and laying off workers in the wake of a failure to override Gov. Chris Sununu’s veto of biomass subsidy bill.

Mt. Laurel, N.J.-based EWP Renewable Corp., a unit of South Korea-based Korea East-West Power Co., is closing the Springfield plant, near Exit 12A on Interstate 89, along with its sister plant in Whitefield, N.H., letting about 20 workers go at each location, according to the New Hampshire Timberland Owners Association. Both plants were idled this past spring, but they continued to operate with skeleton crews, even though they’d ceased to purchase wood chips from area suppliers.

“They were still holding out hope that something could be salvaged,” said Jasen Stock, executive director of the NHTOA, about hopes of keeping the plants alive. “But now they’ve laid off the staff and drained the boiler tubes.”

The closings will bring to an end a multiyear lobbying battle by the state’s timber industry to win public subsidies for the state’s six independent biomass plants, which have operated at a loss as utilities purchase power from lower cost hydroelectric suppliers and other sources.

“We are disappointed that this important jobs and forestry solution was turned into a political control battle,” Ed Kent, president and CEO of EWP Renewable, said in a statement.

The NHTOA’s Stock said EWP’s two biomass plants in Springfield and Whitefield purchased a combined 400,000 tons of wood chips each year — much of it from suppliers in Grafton County, the center of the state’s wood chip producers — representing about $12 million annually in sales, based on market rates.

The Sununu administration has long argued subsidies would be passed along in the form of higher electricity bills to ratepayers, a position that was supported by the state’s consumer advocate, who said it would cost New Hampshire ratepayers $20 million to $30 million more annually for the electricity.

John Lippman can be reached at jlippman@vnews.com.

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