The seemingly endless regulatory process surrounding Invenergy’s proposal for a $1-billion state-of-the-art power plant in Burrillville ground on last week, as the Energy Facility Siting Board heard arguments about whether New England has any need for a new power plant.

Opponents, once again, used what seem to be half-truths to try to block the project.

The proposed Clear River Energy Center would provide the region power more efficiently with less pollution than existing plants. It would produce needed energy to replace that currently generated by older plants that are going offline.

Opponents last week cited projections by Independent Systems Operator New England, which manages the region’s energy system, that demand for electricity is expected to essentially remain flat over the next few years.

That’s fine, but it does not begin to make the case that there is no need for new plants. The region has to plan for what it will do over the next several decades, not just the next few years, to keep its people warm and its houses and businesses lit.

Opponents also say low prices in ISO-NE’s recent auctions of power capacity contracts are further evidence there is no need for new power plants.

Again, auctions are based on a short horizon. We have to worry about the long haul.

It would be lovely, to be sure, if no new plants ever had to be built and if renewable energy could meet all of our demands. But such magical thinking does not square with grim reality New England confronts. ISO-NE has consistently argued there is a need for new plants, lest we go dark.

It's right there on ISO-NE's website ( “With aging non-gas-fired plants closing, New England will need new ways to meet peak demand and make up for natural gas infrastructure constraints."

More than 4,600 megawatts — equal to 16 percent of the region’s current generating capacity — is expected to shut down between 2013 and 2021. That power will have to be replaced by wind resources and new natural-gas-fired plants. Renewables alone cannot do the job, in part, because we have not yet mastered the technology to store their energy efficiently to use when the sun does not shine and the wind does not blow.

“Over 5,000 MW of additional oil and coal capacity are at risk for retirement in coming years, and uncertainty surrounds the future of 3,300 MW at the region’s remaining nuclear plants,” ISO-NE notes.

While Gordon van Welie, president and CEO of ISO-NE, strongly supports renewables, he notes that supplying power at night or on low-wind days or in bitterly cold weather will require fossil fuel plants for the foreseeable future.

To prevent suffering, grownups have to face reality.

If we truly care about the environment, we should use clean-burning natural gas in modern, highly efficient plants. That is our best chance of minimizing harmful pollution until renewables can take over.

Common sense also argues for a need. Think about it: Why would this company put $1 billion in private capital at risk if there was no market for the energy the plant would produce? Invenergy is still in the game, despite opponents’ delaying tactics, because it is certain the energy it creates will be purchased and its investors will be rewarded.