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The US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has proposed reforms which will enable certain small-scale power generation projects including solar to qualify for a faster interconnection process.
The reforms relate to Order No.2006 which became effective in 2005 to establish national interconnection procedures applicable to generation projects that are 20MW or less in size. However, demand for solar energy has grown significantly since 2005 and, according to Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), certain aspects of the order have posed challenges to the interconnection process.
FERC has recognised the need to update current regulations and revealed that the reforms, which are outlined in a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking, are driven by market changes spurred in part by US state renewable energy goals and policies.
If approved, the reforms would reduce the time and cost to process small-scale generator interconnection requests whilst maintaining electric system reliability and safety.
As part of the proposal, FERC has put forward changes to its Small Generator Interconnection Procedures (SGIP) and Small Generator Interconnection Agreement (SGIA) which set the terms and conditions for interconnecting facilities of 20MW or smaller.
As part of the proposal, four reforms have been put forward. The first reform would allow interconnection customers to request from transmission providers a pre-application report to help them better evaluate points of interconnection before submitting a formal interconnection request. FERC believes that this added transparency could increase the efficiency of the interconnection process for both transmission providers and interconnection customers.
The second reform would revise the current 2 MW limit for participation in the fast track process. Instead, fast track eligibility would be based on an individual system and up to a limit of 5 MW.
A third reform would revise the customer options meeting and supplemental review for projects that fail the fast track screens to identify reliability or safety issues.
Finally, interconnection customers will be given the opportunity to provide written comments on the upgrades that are necessary for the interconnection. The commission believes transmission providers should make the final decision on required upgrades, but is concerned that failing to allow customers to review and comment on the upgrades may result in unjust and unreasonable costs.
The SEIA has welcomed news of the proposed reforms and believes that it could help to double the amount of solar considered under the “fast track” process.
Rhone Resch, President and CEO of SEIA said: “We applaud FERC for recognising the challenges facing wholesale distributed generation development, which is one of the fastest-growing segments of the solar energy industry. This important proposed rule has the potential to roughly double the amount of solar generation capacity eligible to be fast-tracked in the US. At the same time, the proposed rule maintains electric system safety and reliability. On behalf of our member companies, we look forward to working with FERC and interested stakeholders to see this rule to implementation and help to bring more affordable, reliable solar energy to the American people. SEIA also urges the states to consider using FERC’s proposed updated rule as a model and starting point for updating their own interconnection rules.”