US DOE Seeks Inputs on Transmission System Interconnection Draft Roadmap
Grid operators, utilities, and developers must submit their inputs by November 22
The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) Solar Energy Technologies Office and Wind Energy Technologies Office have jointly issued a request for information to gather input on a draft Transmission System Interconnection Roadmap prepared by the Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange (i2X) to improve interconnection practices for the bulk power system.
Feedback on the draft roadmap has been sought from grid operators, utilities, state and local governments, tribal governments and tribal utilities, clean energy developers, energy justice organizations, nonprofits, trade associations, and other i2X stakeholders by November 22, 2023.
The request for feedback comes in the context of the rapid transformation of the electric grid in the U.S., with an increasing number of interconnection requests for clean energy resources straining the existing processes for grid interconnection. Queue times to interconnect clean energy projects have been rising, delaying the deployment of new resources to the transmission grid.
At the end of 2022, over 2 TW of generation and storage projects in the U.S. were waiting in line for interconnection. This equates to as much electricity generation capacity as all the power projects operating in the country.
To address these challenges, the DOE launched the i2X program last June to enable simpler, faster, and fairer interconnection of clean energy resources while enhancing the reliability, resilience, and security of the electric grid.
The i2X roadmap emphasizes the importance of comprehensive interconnection standards, drawing attention to the current lack of detailed generator interconnection requirements and recommending measures to maintain a reliable grid to promote economic efficiency.
The draft is intended to serve as a stakeholder-driven practical guide for implementing near and long-term solutions to interconnect clean energy sources and clear the existing backlog of solar, wind, and battery projects seeking to be built.
The proposed measures aim to attract investments in renewable energy projects and address the challenges posed by a significant increase in interconnection requests, which have tripled to quintupled, from 500-1,000 annually (2000-2010) to 2,500-3,000 per year, driven by favorable policy and economic factors.
The roadmap is premised on four critical goals:
- Data Access and Transparency: Improving data quality and accessibility and efficient queue management to enhance the appeal of the renewable energy sector to investors.
- Process and Timing: Target backlog reduction and workforce strengthening through a first-ready-first-served cluster study process, firm deadlines, and penalties for grid operators if they fail to complete their interconnection studies on time.
- Economic Efficiency: Focusing on cost allocation and coordination enhancements to address cost allocation complexities in participant-funded transmission projects, making the renewable energy sector more appealing to investors.
- Reliable Grid: Enhancing grid reliability through improved models and standards, focusing on improving modeling accuracy and developing screening tools to ensure a reliable electricity supply and increase investment prospects in renewable energy.
The roadmap prioritizes advanced information technologies for streamlined data management and reporting. It also encourages adaptable interconnection processes, including fast tracks, to maximize limited transmission capacity and expedite connections.
Enhanced stakeholder coordination is a core focus, with equity-driven initiatives supporting infrastructure upgrades in underserved areas. Addressing market design, regulation, and open access principles ensures fairness and efficiency.
Current interconnection standards, primarily from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), lack the needed detail.
During the roadmap’s development, FERC issued Order 2023 for interconnection reform, which this roadmap incorporates alongside additional ideas for long-term process evolution, fostering industry-wide discourse and maintaining relevance for non-FERC transmission providers.
Last month, the DOE allocated $3.46 billion for 58 projects spanning 44 states to bolster the national grid, with a total investment exceeding $8 billion, targeting 35 GW of renewable energy capacity and 400 microgrids, enhancing resilience, upholding Justice40 goals, and ensuring grid reliability and affordability.
FERC has streamlined U.S. renewable energy project interconnections to reduce queues and improve efficiency, which is crucial given over 2 TW of projects are awaiting connection. This includes a first-ready-first-served cluster study process, firm deadlines, penalties, and advanced transmission tech adoption to enhance grid reliability and transparency.
In India, plans are afoot to invest ₹2.8 trillion ($34.2 billion) by 2030 in setting up an interstate transmission network to evacuate renewable energy, according to K Sreekant, Chairman and Managing Director of government-owned Powergrid Corporation of India.