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).
Recently, the Silver State set itself apart from the pack with a landmark regulatory decision on interconnection rules for energy storage to explicitly allow distributed energy storage systems to connect to the grid and clarify the process projects would undergo as they seek interconnection. IREC played a leading role in advancing these reforms and negotiating the settlement among involved parties.
When Jobs for the Future, a national non-profit that builds educational and economic opportunities for underserved populations in the U.S., was exploring microcredentials, they tapped IREC for its innovative expertise and leadership in the microcredentialing and credentialing space. Laure-Jeanne Davignon, IREC director of workforce and I were pleased to co-author this piece with Veronica Buckwalter, JFF senior project manager, on how microcredentials offer viable pathways for stackable credentials and career advancement for today’s rapidly evolving workforce.
It is at the state level that clean energy success can best be measured today. That’s why we created the 2017 Clean Energy States Honor Roll, to call out some of the year’s best success stories. We recognize Utah, Maryland, Illinois and Minnesota for their achievements in energy storage, net metering, interconnection and a clean energy workforce jobs initiative.
Despite the astoundIng increase of grid-connected solar from 2005 to 2013, U.S. utilities and developers still face interconnection challenges. With proper planning, however, and using integrated distribution planning (IDP), states can overcome major interconnection challenges, including closed circuits, that are hindering the integration of renewables.
December is a month we tend to look back over the year. As I do that, I see an incredibly successful, productive year as it relates to IREC’s goals and objectives. This is of course against the backdrop of an equally incredible year of frustration with what’s happening on the federal level. We know better than ever that it is state policy and regulatory actions that will directly determine the volume and pace of clean energy access and adoption by consumers across the U.S. This makes IREC’s impactful state-by-state work more critical than ever before.
Sometimes we need to blow a horn or two. In this case, there are several blasts in order. Among IREC’s most critical goals is to share what we know. From our work on the ground in multiple state energy regulatory proceedings, our experts identify challenges and solutions to issues surrounding fair and efficient connection to the grid, including the best new ways to plan for increased distributed renewables and transformational technologies like energy storage.
As I travel to cities across the country, I observe that new apartments, condominiums and mixed-use residential and commercial developments are cropping up around nearly every corner. Growing at a similar clip, residential solar installations on single family homes have soared, averaging a 68 percent annual growth rate for the last 10 years, resulting in a historic number of Americans reaping economic, environmental and societal benefits. It’s time to address the policy gaps that are eclipsing the solar opportunity for this growing sector of Americans.
Interconnecting DERs to the distribution grid is generally a “cost-causer pays” system: consumers who want solar pay for necessary distribution system upgrades, even when the upgrades will likely support future interconnection projects. What’s more, future projects benefit from investment in the grid’s infrastructure and could escape upgrade fees. Economics and fairness theories aside, this practice can kill perfectly viable and beneficial projects that didn’t budget for high upgrade costs and cause major delays in the process.
With more states adopting policies that enable community solar, and with voluntary utility programs on the rise, the community solar (aka shared solar) landscape is transforming quickly. Eleven states plus the District of Columbia have implemented active statewide community solar programs. Two additional states (Illinois and Oregon) are now moving to adopt new program rules.