Minnesota Overhauls Interconnection Standards to Streamline Clean Energy (Some Decisions Deferred)
By Sky Stanfield, of Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger LLP, regulatory counsel for the Interstate Renewable Energy Council, Inc.
Published May 25, 2018, Utility Dive
On May 24th, Minnesota made new strides for clean energy and became the third state in the Midwest in the last three years to adopt wholesale reforms to their state interconnection procedures – creating a more transparent and effective interconnection process for customers.
The updated rules are the result of more than two years of work at the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC), by IREC, in partnership with Fresh Energy and the Environmental Law & Policy Center (ELPC). In May 2016, the three organizations jointly petitioned the PUC to initiate a proceeding to establish new interconnection standards that better align with where the current market for distributed generation is and achieve greater consistency with national best practices.
The request stemmed, in part, from the state’s early challenges connecting community solar gardens projects to the grid, which led to major backlogs and increased delays and costs for consumers and communities. This coalition of groups was also looking to streamline the interconnection process for rooftop solar systems, which constitute the vast majority of interconnection applications in the state.
Interconnection standards are the great equalizer in clean energy markets, and they remain a key building block to support a strong foundation for continued clean energy growth. Minnesota’s interconnection standards were some of the first to be adopted in the country, but they have not been significantly updated since 2004. Given the state’s upward growth trends in renewable energy, and with new prospects for energy storage and smart inverter adoption on the horizon, the timing for these improvements is good.