The Federal Energy Regulation Commission approved a new final rule that streamlines the connection of energy generation and storage across the country.
The move advances projects that are currently waiting an average of five years before they are connected to the power grid. The move also helps renewable energy projects that could move the U.S. further away from fossil fuels in the battle against climate change.
“This new rule will enable America’s vast power generation resources to connect to the grid in a reliable, efficient, transparent, and timely manner, and in doing so, help provide more reliable, resilient, and affordable electricity for all consumers,” FERC Chairman Willie Phillips said in a statement. “This is a watershed moment for our nation’s transmission grid.”
The rule includes several areas of reform, including a “first-ready-first-served cluster study process,” as well as increased financial commitments for interconnection customers that will improve the efficiency of the interconnection process. This process requires providers to conduct larger interconnection studies covering numerous proposed generating facilities instead of separate studies for each generating facility. To remain in the queue, providers must also meet financial deposits and site control conditions.
The commission also noted that there were more than 2,000 gigawatts of generation and storage waiting in interconnection queues across the country at the end of 2022. That’s the equivalent to all the power plants now operating around the nation.
The rule also imposes firm deadlines and penalties if transmission providers fail to complete their interconnection studies in time, as well as an update of modeling and performance requirements for inverter-based resources to ensure continued system reliability.
These penalties were met with applause from the solar energy industry.
“In particular, we are pleased to see that the rules set binding study deadlines and establish penalties for transmission providers that fail to meet those deadlines,” Melissa Alfano, director of energy markets and counsel at the Solar Energy Industries Association, said in a statement. “In addition, the new rules will make it easier to add energy storage to projects that are already in the interconnection queue, helping to increase energy storage capacity on the grid and recognize the growing value clean energy has when it comes to providing grid services.”
Plus, the rule requires transmission providers to allow more than one generating facility to co-locate on a shared site behind a single point of interconnection and share a single interconnection request. This improves efficient standardized procedures and allows providers to add a generating facility to an existing interconnection request under certain circumstances.
The final rule will take effect 60 days after publication in the Federal Register, with compliance filings due 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. The rule was proposed in June 2022.
“Our transmission policies must keep pace with the rapid changes in the makeup of our nation’s power generation resource mix,” Phillips said. “Today’s rule is an important milestone. But there is so much more to do. The Commission is working diligently on how to address the key issues of regional transmission planning and cost allocation. We need to take a longer-term, forward-looking approach to planning for essential transmission facilities and to allocate the costs of those facilities in a just and reasonable manner while enhancing the reliability and resilience of the grid.”