The last decade or so has seen some major upheavals in the power industry. First, in the late 1990’s, many states undertook restructuring programs that would see the dismantling of vertically-integrated utilities and the creation of a market-based generation sector. These programs were intended to reduce costs for consumers by creating incentives for the development of efficient new generation. Unfortunately, as natural gas prices vaulted ever higher, the aspirations for the new market clashed with the energy realities. The result was a combination of high prices for consumers and the bankruptcies of many of the new generators – certainly not what was intended.
During this same period, with a growing recognition of the true environmental and economic costs of conventional generating facilities, many states developed Renewable Portfolio Standards and various state-sponsored programs to encourage energy efficiency, demand-side management and renewable generation. With the added impacts of Federal programs such as the Investment and Production Tax Credits, solar and wind projects in a wide-range of sizes were developed across the country.
As the first decade of the new millennium came to a close, more disruptions were at hand. With the financial melt-down of 2008 and the nearly simultaneous development of new gas resources in our nation’s shale deposits, natural gas prices fell to new lows.
This new price environment, together with ever more stringent requirements on generating facilities, began to place significant competitive pressure on coal- and oil-fired facilities and many owners of these facilities began to seriously consider shutting the older and least efficient of them down.
Having worked in the years since restructuring on the development of new natural gas-fueled facilities, the economic analysis of old coal-fired facilities and the integration of renewable projects, Peter Furniss and Scott Silverstein found themselves well placed to create a company dedicated to serving the needs of stakeholders in the face of these new economic pressures. The result, in October 2009, was Footprint Power LLC, a completely new platform engineered from the ground up to respond to the unique environmental, economic and physical implications for owners, communities, grid operators and other stakeholders of shutting down coal facilities.
Our first project is in Salem, Massachusetts where we will continue to operate the coal- and oil-fired Salem Harbor Generating Facility until its scheduled shut-down in May 2014 and will replace it with a state-of-the-art combined-cycle gas turbine that will come online by June 2016. This new facility will provide an unprecedented level of efficiency and flexibility that will provide a bridge to a future of higher and higher levels of demand-side management and renewable generation and a gradual transition to a marketplace that relies on gas-fueled facilities as back-up power to be used only as needed.