The Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission  issued a final order July 18 approving significant revisions to the state’s interconnection rules. The order reflects many of IREC’s recommendations throughout this effort, which began in 2011 with a call for public comment to help identify barriers and opportunities for distributed generation in Washington.

The revised rules mark three important advances that were recommended or supported by IREC: (1) the definition of “interconnection customer” now clarifies that net-metered systems can be owned by a third-party; (2) a multi-tiered approach to evaluating interconnection requests, consistent with the approach in a majority of other states; and (3) eliminating the requirement for an external disconnect switch for Tier 1 systems (inverter-based systems 25 kW or less), a national best practice.

What could prove to be the most significant advance, however, is contained in the order itself. The commission granted the request of parties, including IREC, to clarify in a forthcoming ruling whether third-party owners are subject to commission jurisdiction under state law.

“The Commission is now poised to create an opportunity for a substantial boost to Washington distributed generation by making a relatively simple and narrow clarification to the state’s public utility law, which could have a significant and long-lasting impact on distributed generation in the state,” said Jason Keyes, who represented IREC in this proceeding. “We have repeatedly seen exponential market growth in states that open the door for third-party ownership, as doing so empowers new customers who might otherwise find the upfront cost of installation to be a significant barrier.”

Overall, with the new interconnection process in place, generators in Washington will have a more clearly defined pathway to expedited interconnection, with a multi-level process based on objective technical screens. These aspects of the rule also mean that they are more closely in line with the federally-approved Small Generator Interconnection Procedures and the approach taken in a majority of other states.