Allow solar developers to choose “connect and manage,” says DOE roadmap


Transmission interconnection processes “need to evolve” to handle the larger number of interconnection requests seen in recent years, says a U.S. Department of Energy “roadmap” report.

The report presents 35 interconnection improvement solutions developed through a DOE stakeholder engagement process launched 22 months ago, known as the Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange (i2X) program.

DOE will have an ongoing role in implementing the solutions, it said in a news release, including facilitating solution adoption, providing funding and technical assistance, and supporting the research community.

One of the solutions presented is to “ensure” that generators have the option to elect energy-only interconnection and agree to be “re-dispatched”—that is, curtailed—as needed rather than paying for network upgrades. This approach, known as “connect and manage,” is key to speedy interconnection in Texas.

To achieve this solution, the roadmap proposes actions by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), transmission providers, and interconnection customers.

One of the roadmap’s “long-term” solutions is to “explore options” to allow interconnection customers to self-fund and provide their own interconnection studies, subject to transmission provider oversight, rules, and requirements. Tesla said in late 2022 that with access to grid models, the company could estimate a project’s interconnection costs with an informational study in less than two weeks, while two trade groups at that time renewed their call to allow third-party interconnection studies.

To achieve this self-funding solution, the roadmap recommended actions by FERC, transmission providers, researchers at DOE and elsewhere, and interconnection customers.

Five of the solutions relate to workforce development, and include highlighting in higher education settings “the important role of interconnection policy and practice in the clean energy transition.”

The report states target timeframes for key metrics, including a 12-month timeframe for a “completed project” to advance from the interconnection request to an interconnection agreement. Among projects that enter the third and final interconnection study phase, the targeted completion rate is 70%, compared to a recent actual percentage of 45%.

While transmission providers “play a central role” in managing and implementing interconnection process improvements, the report notes that “ideas and actions often come from other stakeholders.”

Many stakeholder groups participated in the i2X process to brainstorm and develop solutions, including interconnection customers, state agencies, federal regulators, load serving entities, equipment manufacturers, consumer advocates, equity and energy justice communities, advocacy groups, consultants, and researchers both within and outside DOE.

“Members from all these stakeholder groups should continue to participate in the implementation” of the solutions, the report said, adding that “reform is thus a group effort.”

As DOE developed the roadmap, FERC issued Order 2023, which also aims to reform interconnection. The roadmap “introduces additional ideas that support longer-term interconnection process evolution,” says the report, and its solutions “are intended to complement and support” Order 2023.

DOE will hold a webinar on the roadmap on May 8 at 1 p.m. Eastern time, focused on the roadmap’s solutions and targets.

The department’s 125-page roadmap report is titled “Transmission Interconnection Roadmap: Transforming Bulk Transmission Interconnection by 2035.”

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