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).
The comprehensive Rule 21 Order adopted by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) provides numerous innovations to mitigate costs associated with connecting clean energy to the grid, facilitates a clear process for interconnecting energy storage systems, and enables implementation of smart inverter functionality.
Like a new Broadway hit, the debut of the Empire State’s ambitious regulatory initiative, Reforming the Energy Vision (REV), has garnered much fanfare and intrigue. And, rightly so, considering its lofty objectives to transform the energy sector in the state by integrating high volumes of distributed energy resources (DERs) into the electric system, among other goals.
Over the past decade, IREC has worked with dozens of states across the country to facilitate and support the adoption of fundamental regulatory policy reforms that maintain the safety and reliability of the electric grid, while also allowing for fair, affordable and efficient consumer access to renewable energy. Central to our efforts is a concerted focus on interconnection standards – the technical protocols that govern the processes by which renewable energy projects connect with the electricity grid.
On May 15th, the North Carolina Utilities Commission issued a long-awaited order adopting revisions to the state’s interconnection standards. The commission’s decision is interesting in a number of respects for both how it follows and how it bucks national trends in interconnection best practice development.
Say you’re thinking about adding another story onto an old house. You probably wouldn’t want to start building without first having a structural engineer make some calculations to ensure the house could support the addition. Now keep that image in mind as you consider interconnection policy as one of the main load-bearing walls in our solar market “house.” If not properly designed to match the growing market conditions, state interconnection policies may cause the house to come crashing down…or at least cause some major cracks to form.
Technology Advancements Alone Won’t Bring Energy Storage to Market – Regulatory Reform is Equally Important
It is widely recognized that distributed energy storage can offer a host of benefits to utilities, storage customers and ratepayers. It is particularly true that energy storage has enormous potential to ease the integration of high levels of renewable energy onto the electric grid. However, as it stands today, the regulatory and market policies in the electricity sector are not yet positioned to enable energy storage developers and customers to deploy the technology in a manner that ensures access to the full range of benefits it can offer.
Group study projects may bring to mind student days, when a small group worked together to distribute the workload. It increased study efficiency, and sped up the research review process. A decision announced last week by the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) is born from a similar need – to streamline, distribute the work (and costs) of connecting to the grid, and ultimately to save time.
Last week, we saw an important shift in interconnection policy as the federal Small Generator Interconnection Procedures (SGIP) were updated for the first time since their initial adoption in 2005. We have been working for nearly two years to build stakeholder consensus at FERC on the changes adopted last week, which follow the example set by leading states such as California, Hawaii and Massachusetts. It is a monumental accomplishment, symbolically and substantively.