Held on November 9 in Minneapolis, MN, and virtually, the IREC Vision Summit 2023 explored critical clean energy interconnection issues and elevated key solutions. 

The interconnection of distributed energy resources (DERs), like solar and energy storage, is a foundational element of the transition to a 100% clean, equitable, and resilient energy future. While significant barriers to interconnection on the distribution grid persist across the U.S., many innovative solutions are being developed and deployed, from improved screening and study processes, to fairer grid upgrade cost allocation methods. Well-designed interconnection policies can enable more equitable access to sustainable energy, as well as the development of critical resilience tools like microgrids, that help communities weather and recover from natural disasters. 

The IREC Vision Summit 2023 brought together interconnection leaders from across the nation, as well as those new to interconnection but interested in its significance to clean energy and climate goals. Attendees gained practical skills to support effective distribution interconnection reform in the U.S. and built and strengthened relationships with other interconnection stakeholders.

We at IREC thank you all for joining us and participating in the 2023 Summit! We’d also like to thank event sponsors, partners, and the IREC board and staff for all their support and contributions to making this a successful event. Stay tuned for more information on next year’s event!

Vision Summit 2023 Videos

Keynote: Pathway to the Future Interconnecting Distributed Energy Resources for Rapid Decarbonization

A growing number of states are adopting aggressive climate, energy equity, and clean energy goals, with targets starting in 2030—and some even earlier. Distributed energy resources (DERs)—including solar, storage, microgrids, building and transportation electrification, and other resources—are a foundational element of achieving rapid decarbonization, but deploying DERs reliably, equitably, and cost-efficiently requires interconnection procedures that are designed to minimize delays and costs. Recent studies show that achieving climate and clean energy targets with utility-scale clean energy resources alone will require enormous infrastructure investments, and that adding DERs to the mix can potentially save hundreds of billions of dollars and support a much more equitable and rapid transition. This is especially urgent as federal policies, including the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the Inflation Reduction Act, and FERC’s Order 2222, are opening new opportunities to DER growth. This panel explores key near-term challenges and solutions to implementing well-designed DER interconnection policies that ensure continued safe and reliable grid operation and enable rapid and cost-effective DER adoption.

Speakers:

  • Lorraine Akiba, JD | Moderator, LHA Ventures
  • Ammar Qusaibaty | U.S. Department of Energy
  • David Gahl | Solar & Storage Industries Institute
  • Utopia Hill | Reactivate
  • Commissioner Rory Christian | New York State Public Service Commission
  • Mark Esguerra, P.E. | Southern California Edison

Breaking Down Grid Barriers Innovative Solutions to Streamline Interconnection

The transition to a clean, equitable, affordable, and resilient energy future isn’t happening in a vacuum. Incentives for community solar, solar-plus-storage, and other resources have to be viewed side-by-side with other enabling policies, especially DER interconnection. Even the best-designed incentive programs can fail when projects linger in queues for months, have to resubmit applications and lose valuable time (and potentially financing) when design modifications are necessary, or face prohibitively high grid upgrade costs. This panel discusses solutions to some of the major barriers facing interconnection today, with a focus on currently available and near-term actions that regulators, utilities, DER stakeholders, and others can move to adopt in their jurisdictions.

Speakers:

  • Radina Valova | Moderator, IREC
  • Pearl Donohoo-Vallett | Pepco Holdings
  • Samantha Weaver | Coalition for Community Solar Access
  • Sky Stanfield | Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger, LLP
  • Brad Klein | Environmental Law & Policy Center
  • Julieta Giraldez | Kevala

Centering Energy Equity Within Interconnection Policies

Discussions of interconnection policy development are often far removed from energy equity and justice, but interconnection has a direct impact on equitable access to sustainable energy. Costly grid upgrade fees can exacerbate existing barriers to energy equity, such as by making community solar projects prohibitively expensive to finance. Interconnection queue timeline delays can lead to projects losing available financial incentives. And business-as-usual grid maintenance and operation may leave communities with less reliable electric systems that necessitate more costly grid upgrades to accommodate DERs. Conversely, well-designed interconnection policy can enable equitable access to sustainable energy. This panel will discuss the challenges and emerging solutions in this growing field of practice.

Speakers:

  • Shay Banton | Moderator, IREC
  • Stephen Mariani | Hawaii Public Utilities Commission
  • Katie Kienbaum | Institute for Local Self-Reliance
  • Adrian Davis | Prime Partners Engineering
  • Nathan Phelps | Vote Solar

Keeping the Lights On: Grid Resilience Through Microgrids

As natural disasters grow in frequency and severity, microgrids have emerged as leading solutions to helping communities weather and recover. Microgrids can play a key role in supporting energy affordability, resilience, and reliability. But many challenges to microgrid development remain, particularly for microgrids that span rights-of-way and involve multiple points of interconnection, including the lack of approved technical standards and hurdles throughout the interconnection process. This panel will examine the current barriers to multi-customer microgrid interconnection, highlight innovative projects being deployed in Puerto Rico, and walk through emerging regulatory and technical solutions for interconnection.

Speakers:

  • Brian Lydic | Moderator, IREC
  • Ben Passer | McKnight Foundation
  • Carlos Alberto Velázquez López | IREC
  • Dustin Jolley | OurEnergy
  • Mahmoud Kabalan, PhD, PE | University of St. Thomas
  • Weston Dengler | Smart Electric Power Alliance (SEPA)

To learn more about the themes, panels, and speakers at past IREC Vision Summits, explore our archives from 2022, 2020, and 2019.