The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC or Commission) issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NOPR) on June 16, 2022, to reform the Commission’s standard generator interconnection procedures and agreements. This proposal seeks to establish how utility providers integrate new projects into the existing transmission system. They hope to reduce the industry’s backlogs for integrating new projects into existing systems. New comments have been submitted by the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) in response to the FERC’s NOPR. SEIA commended FERC for taking initial steps on critical reforms but countered that the transmission providers must take responsibility for reducing interconnection delays connecting clean energy projects to the grid.

Currently, only interconnection customers suffer penalties for any delays. The interconnection backlog has risen to more than 1,000 GW of clean electricity generation and storage projects. Time limits and new incentives, among other related changes, could help to clear this extensive backlog and free customers of these penalties.

According to Solar Industry, Abigail Ross Hopper, president, and CEO of SEIA, is quoted as saying, “Thousands of renewable energy projects are stuck in interconnection queues across the country, and without smart reforms, many of them will never see the light of day. These challenges will only compound over the next decade as project developers aim to take advantage of the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA). But they are not insurmountable. FERC has an important opportunity to add more accountability and transparency measures to an otherwise opaque process that must change if we are to realize the full benefits of this landmark climate law.”

SEIA’s comments, written by Melissa Alfano, the SEIA director of energy markets and counsel, call for more upfront information about grid conditions from transmission providers. These changes will allow for more efficient project siting decisions and lower upgrade costs. Ultimately, consumers would benefit from lower costs across the board.

The lack of requirements for sharing information on grid conditions from transmission owners makes interconnection a blind process for developers. Increased transparency would allow for more informed decisions from developers throughout the interconnection process.

SEIA highlighted the need for efficiency while adding their support for the Commission’s proposals. Both seek to give developers the ability to add an energy storage component to any planned or existing interconnection projects. Energy storage boasts many benefits, including increased grid reliability. Streamlining these projects would benefit developers, providers, and consumers alike.
While SEIA agrees with many of the Commission’s proposals, their statement encourages them to drop their proposal for more significant withdrawal penalties. SEIA reasons that increased penalties unfairly target developers for processes primarily out of their control. Furthermore, SEIA fears these penalties may prevent less viable projects from leaving the interconnection queue.

According to Solar Industry, Hopper is quoted as saying, “While we are glad that FERC is taking action on interconnection, we’re urging the commission to take a closer look at its proposals to ensure there’s an equitable solution for all parties involved. Over the next decade, interconnection reform will continue to be a top priority for SEIA as we look to add hundreds of gigawatts of clean energy to the grid.”

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Mast A.