Interconnection Innovation Workshop Recap | RE+ Las Vegas, NV, Sep 2023
Updated: Oct 30
Last week, our team attended a series of workshops at the RE+ Conference in Las Vegas, Nevada. We focused on workshops around energy storage, green hydrogen, and the electric grid, as these areas are of critical interest to our utility clients. One of the workshops that our program manager, Evan Heryet, attended was titled “Interconnection Innovation Workshop.” Here is Evan’s recap of the workshop.
Amongst the renewable energy landscape, and the broader distributed energy resource (DER) arena, there is a push to increasingly develop and connect new electric generation projects throughout the North American electric grid (Bulk Power Supply or BPS). At the connection point between the generation project and the transmission network (interconnection), a bottleneck has formed, resulting in a significant backlog of new generation project applications.
To cope with the new challenges posed by new types of electric generation technology and alleviate the interconnection application and processing times, the U.S. Department of Energy has gathered a diverse group of stakeholders throughout the BPS ecosystem aiming to come up with an effective 5-year strategic roadmap. The roadmap aims to implement rules for faster and fairer interconnection processes as well as rules for enhancing the reliability, resiliency, and security of the distribution and transmission grid networks. Key issues to be addressed are cost allocation, queue management, data transparency, equity, workforce, and grid engineering practices.
The reality is that in such a diverse ecosystem, with a significant number of differing interests, there is no elegant solution—but progress is being made.
Recently the Federal Energy and Regulatory Commission (FERC) issued Order 2023 to address interconnection queue backlogs, improve certainty, and prevent undue discrimination towards new technologies. Although Order 2023 is a promising start, a push from federal regulators and lawmakers will be needed to address further issues.
Areas that still need to be addressed include portions of the BPS outside of the Transmission Wholesale Power Markets, regional differences in standards including a lack of definition for transmission, sub-transmission, and distribution systems, challenges in terms of reliability brought on by DERs, and a lack of access to and transparency in data.
Tied to a loosely standardized, haphazard approval process that is implemented regionally and varies even at the individual utility level, the process can be confusing to say the least, and subsequent modeling for projects can have large unknowns. To address and alleviate these issues by the year 2030 is going to take quick, careful, and decisive action by the Department of Energy in collaboration with FERC and numerous other stakeholders.
These parties will need to address key issues such as:
Holistic grid planning
Meeting the current and upcoming demand for qualified engineers
Top down and bottom up planning overall
Stakeholder access to historical and current data such as project failure rates, areas of grid congestion and generation opportunities, etc.
Alleviate exploratory applications from developers due to lack of data
This post was written by Evan Heryet, Program Manager at THAMPICO LLC, a consulting firm that provides program and project management support for utilities and cooperatives. We help our clients align people, process, and technology to produce optimal outcomes for energy project development. Our goal is to help our clients deliver more reliable, affordable, and clean energy, which is what the world wants and needs.