Interconnection

IREC Releases 2009 Interconnection and Net Metering Guides

The Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) has just released the 2009 updates for its highly respected and influential rules and procedures for interconnecting and net metering distributed generation.

Many of the model procedures that regulators and utilities look to in developing local standards have not been updated in the past three years. Since that time, there has been significant market growth for renewable distributed generation. To facilitate that growth, many states have adopted net metering and interconnection policies and many others have revisited and expanded their existing policies to incorporate lessons learned from facilitating increased penetrations of distributed generation.

IREC has been a participant in more than thirty state utility commission rulemakings regarding interconnection and net metering of distributed generation. IREC's model rule updates capture these evolved best practices and compile them into a template regulators and utilities can use as a starting point when drafting local rules.

Important advances in interconnection procedures include:

  • clarifying that third party ownership of facilities is permissible;
  • raising the size eligibility for the simplest installations from 10 kilowatts to 25 kilowatts;
  • allowing online applications;
  • addressing state-jurisdictional facilities over ten megawatts; and
  • updating provisions related to network interconnections.

Important advances in net metering rules include:

  • increase in the size of systems eligible for net metering;
  • expansion of program capacity caps;
  • meter aggregation; and
  • accommodation of third-party ownership of net metered systems.

Both guides may be downloaded from IREC in the links below.
Model Interconnection Procedures 2009
Net Metering Model Rules 2009

Connecting Renewable Energy to a Smarter Grid

Transmission Linemen
Transmission Lineman
photo: mnorri, some rights reserved

There are many hurdles for connecting renewable energy projects to the existing electric power grid. Transmission lines already operate near full capacity. Substations may not handle new interconnections. Regulatory processes span state and federal authorities, and interconnection standards vary from state to state. Plus, it's not clear how to best allocate costs for infrastructure improvements between utilities, energy developers, and rate-payers.

The good news is that both industry and government groups have invested in research on how to better connect renewable energy projects to the grid and how to construct a smart grid that can support a clean energy future. While there is clearly need for technology improvements, much of the research points to improved policies, consistency in standards, and adoption of best practices. Here are recently released reports on these topics.

The sixth edition of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council's (IREC) Connecting to the Grid Guide provides a comprehensive introduction to a span of topics that relate to grid-tied renewable energy sources. The sixth edition has been revised to include information on IREC's recently updated model procedures, alternative billing arrangements for net metering, energy storage and several other emerging issues in the field. This guide is designed for state regulators and other policymakers, utilities, industry representatives and consumers interested in the development of state-level interconnection and net metering policies.

The National Energy Technology Laboratory (NETL), part of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) laboratory system, hosts a Modern Grid Strategy web site that regularly issues whitepapers. The Transmission Smart Grid Imperative outlines the technologies that are ready to be deployed while considering the complexities of building consensus for new transmission construction. Accomodates All Generation and Storage Options defines how a smart grid can be powered by small distributed energy resources (DER) which include both distributed generation and storage, as one of seven "Smart Grid Principal Characteristics" identifed by NETL.

Perspectives for Utilities & Others Implementing Smart Grids by The Smart Grid Stakeholder Roundtable Group represents the outcome of meetings with a range of stakeholders including state agencies, consumer groups, environmental groups, commercial and industrial consumers, utilities and public utility commissions. The report was sponsored by the Office of Electricity Delivery and Energy Reliability with the goal "to help utilities and other smart grid project developers better communicate how and why they think smart grid technologies will benefit consumers and the environment, as well as the overall electric system in general."

Under the Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), partnering with DOE and the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), has "primary responsibility to coordinate development of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of smart grid devices and systems..." The NIST Framework and Roadmap for Smart Grid Interoperability Standards, Release 1.0 is a draft of a framework that includes protocols and model standards for information management to achieve interoperability of Smart Grid devices and systems. NIST has currently identified 16 initial standards and is considering an additional 46 potential standards. 

Green Power Express

ITC Holdings Corp. has worked to develop the Green Power Express, a network of transmission lines that would facilitate the movement of 12,000 MW of power from the wind-abundant areas in the Dakotas, Minnesota and Iowa to Midwest load centers, such as Chicago, southeastern Wisconsin, Minneapolis and other states that demand clean, renewable energy.

This new project addresses the recognized lack of electric transmission infrastructure needed to integrate renewable wind energy.

The Green Power Express could be a step to modernize the overburdened, aging electricity grid by building a high-voltage backbone to meet America's renewable energy goals and eliminate costly inefficiencies in the grid. Once built the Green Power Express transmission project will traverse portions of North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Illinois and Indiana and will ultimately include approximately 3,000 miles of extra high-voltage (765kV) transmission. The entire project is currently estimated to cost of approximately $10 to 12 billion.

"The Green Power Express will create the much-needed link between the renewable energy-rich regions of the Midwest and high-demand population centers," said Joseph L. Welch, chairman, president and CEO of ITC. "The Green Power Express is in many ways the true definition of a 'smart grid'."

Due to the size and scope of this project along with the various state and federal approvals that will be required, ITC is aggressively targeting to have the Green Power Express in service by 2020.

Read more about the Green Power Express.

Chapter 14: Interconnection

Interconnection - Getting Energy to Market

The electrical generation, transmission, and distribution system has been labeled the most complex machine ever created by humans. There are many rules and regulations to ensure that it runs reliably, and as a result the process for interconnecting your energy project with this system involves dealing with regulatory agencies at the state and regional level as well as utility personnel, engineering consultants, and lawyers with experience with interconnection contracts. It can take over a year to complete the required interconnection studies and can cost your project up into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. You will need to weigh the results of conversations and studies to determine if it is worth moving on to the next phase of studies or if the cost of interconnection will not allow your site to be profitable.

Ownership: 

Reactive Power Support

This is the production of reactive power to maintain stability on the transmission system. Power on the system comes in two main types: the first is the power that is actually delivered to end users, and the second is reactive power, which is power provided to the system to maintain the system, rather than for end-use consumption.

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