The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week issued a proposed rule to accelerate the connecting of new renewable energy generators to the grid and alleviate the enormous backlog in interconnection queues.
At the end of 2021, more than 1,400 GW of renewable energy generation and storage projects were delayed in interconnection queues across the US, with facilities now needing to wait an average of more than three years to connect to the grid, according to the regulator.
Many grid operators and utilities have been employing the “first-come, first-served” processes, which have few safeguards to weed out speculative interconnection requests. Some of them are thus shifting to “first-ready, first-served” processes, which would put more burdens on project developers to demonstrate that the projects are likely to be completed as planned.
This new process is also included in the proposed amendments, which is expected to speed up interconnection queue processing by instituting strict deadlines and penalties for transmission providers who fail to complete interconnection studies on time.
The move addresses the critical need to update, expedite, and streamline the processes for connecting new resources to the grid, said Rich Glick, FERC chairman Rich Glick. “We are seeing unprecedented demand for new resources trying to connect to the transmission grid, and queue delays are preventing customers from accessing new, low-cost energy.”
While FERC’s notice of proposed rulemaking would implement many interconnection reforms long sought by clean energy advocates, it does not address the contentious issue of how the costs of upgrading the grid to handle new power projects could be shifted from project developers to the customers served by the grids to which they are connected.
Clean-energy advocates hailed FERC’s new recommendations while emphasizing that cost-allocation difficulties remain a major issue to be resolved.
The proposed package of interconnection improvements is tremendously essential and would go a long way toward alleviating the massive backlogs in the country, said Gabe Tabak, counsel for the American Clean Power Association.
“However, the most critical component not addressed in the proposed rule is how to allocate network upgrading expenditures. We anticipate that FERC will need to address this issue in the near future,” he added.