In a ‘watershed moment,’ interconnecting the US grid just got a lot more efficient

In a much-anticipated move, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) passed a new rule today that’s finally going to streamline the backed-up US grid interconnection process.

At the end of 2022, there were more than 2,000 gigawatts of bottlenecked new power generation and storage waiting to be connected across the US. That’s the same amount of electricity generation capacity as all the power plants currently operating around the country.

Projects have faced an average wait of up to five years to connect to the grid – and today’s ruling is expected to shorten that wait (we’ll keep an eye on it to see to what extent).

FERC says today’s rule will provide “greater timing and cost certainty to interconnection customers, and prevent… undue discrimination against new sources of power generation.”

Willie Phillips, FERC chairman, said:

This new rule will enable America’s vast power generation resources to connect to the grid in a reliable, efficient, transparent, and timely manner, and in doing so, help provide more reliable, resilient, and affordable electricity for all consumers.

This is a watershed moment for our nation’s transmission grid.

Phillips also noted that there’s still a lot to do.

Melissa Alfano, director of energy markets and counsel at the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), said, “Interconnection reforms need to be meaningful to make a difference, and this final ruling from FERC is a step in the right direction.”

“In particular, we are pleased to see that the rules set binding study deadlines and establish penalties for transmission providers that fail to meet those deadlines.”

“In addition, the new rules will make it easier to add energy storage to projects that are already in the interconnection queue, helping to increase energy storage capacity on the grid and recognize the growing value clean energy has when it comes to providing grid services.”  

Today’s final rule includes several key reform areas, including, according to FERC:

  • Institution of a first-ready-first-served cluster study process, with increased financial commitments for interconnection customers, to improve the efficiency of the interconnection process and minimize delays;
  • Imposition of firm deadlines and penalties if transmission providers fail to complete their interconnection studies on time incorporation of technological advancements into the interconnection process, including consideration of advanced transmission technologies in the interconnection study process;
  • An update of modeling and performance requirements for inverter-based resources to ensure continued system reliability.

The more detailed “Improvements to Generator Interconnection Procedures and Agreements” can be read on the FERC Fact Sheet here.

Read more: The US’ largest clean energy infrastructure project is kicking off construction

Photo: Ten West Link

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