The Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc. (IREC) released an update of its highly influential Model Interconnection Procedures. IREC first developed Model Interconnection Procedures in 2005 in an effort to capture emerging best practices in this vital area. Several important evolutions in best practices are synthesized into the 2013 Model Interconnection Procedures, last updated in 2009.

IREC has been an active participant in dozens of state utility commission rulemakings that have focused on the development of interconnection procedures, which specify the technical requirements, timeframes, fees and review process for connecting renewable energy systems to the utility grid.

“As states and utilities have adopted interconnection procedures, IREC has witnessed the effects, both good and bad, on renewable energy IREC Interconnection 2013 cover_smallmarket development within those states,” said IREC President and CEO Jane Weissman. “This update to IREC’s Model Interconnection Procedures represents an enormous amount of time and collaboration with states, utilities and engineers, working to achieve the right balance of review necessary to maintain a safe and reliable grid.”

As a result of this experience, and the experience gained by developers and utilities since IREC’s model procedures were last updated, IREC identifies several important evolutions in best practices.

“As costs of renewable energy come down and more systems seek to connect to the grid in leading states, interconnection procedures developed over the last decade are increasingly under strain,” said Kevin Fox, lead author of the model revision. “They simply were not developed to handle the number of applications being received by grid operators, nor were they designed to address the processing of interconnection requests at higher penetration levels.”

The important advances incorporated into these model procedures include:

  • Integrating a Pre-Application Report that provides developers with readily available information on relevant considerations associated with interconnecting at a specific point on the local electric power grid;
  • Updating one of the expedited interconnection screens to allow generators that require limited construction on the utility system to proceed through an expedited review so long as there are no safety and reliability impacts that require additional study;
  • Incorporating location-specific criteria for determining eligibility for expedited interconnection that vary according to the voltage of the line at the proposed Point of Interconnection and distance from the utility substation;
  • Increasing the clarity and transparency of the Supplemental Review Process by establishing timeframes for completing, identifying technical criteria for reviewing applications, and providing a fixed cost;
  • Adding an Options Meeting prior to entering Level 4 that allows for dialogue between the utility and the customer before studies are conducted;
  • For applications that require study, eliminating the Feasibility Study and embracing a more efficient two study process already in use by many utilities;
  • Updating Application fees so that they reflect current costs; and
  • Explicitly allowing for electronic signatures on applications and agreements to expedite the administrative aspects of the interconnection process.

These updated procedures also include footnotes that explain key provisions and provide information on alternatives that are being practiced in states.

IREC welcomes the opportunity to work with state utility commissions and individual utilities to develop interconnection procedures. Please contact IREC at [email protected] with inquiries.