Interconnection Procedures Advance or Impede Clean Energy Growth
State interconnection procedures are a critical component of a state’s policy toolkit. They specify the technical requirements, timeframe, fees and process for connecting renewable energy systems to the utility grid. As a result, restrictive, costly procedures can significantly impede a state’s renewable energy growth by discouraging otherwise feasible projects.
As costs of renewable energy come down and more systems seek to connect to the grid, interconnection procedures developed over the last decade are increasingly under strain. They simply weren’t developed to handle the number of applications now received by grid operators. Nor were they designed to address the technical issues posed by the technologies currently in demand.
IREC has led the effort to improve interconnection procedures in states across the country. The IREC Model Interconnection Procedures (updated 2013), along with Freeing the Grid provide state policy makers with a clear baseline to measure the minimum adequacy of their procedures. Grades listed in Freeing the Grid often are cited by policy makers. Some states, such as Maine and West Virginia, have based modifications to their interconnections procedures directly on IREC’s Model.
Utilizing the technical expertise of multiple partners, and its own team’s sophisticated understanding of rule development and application, allows IREC to help negotiate improvements to the rules that benefit both solar developers and the reviewing utilities.
Updates and Trends
IREC plays a key role in facilitating extensive stakeholder processes in states such as California and Hawaii, where substantial revisions to interconnection procedures have been established to increase the efficiency of the review process, even in the face of increasing penetrations.
Two particularly significant process improvements were adopted in the last few years: the application of a higher penetration screen that looks at minimum instead of peak load, and is applied through the supplemental review process; and the implementation of a pre-application report to enable developers to better choose appropriate project locations.