US power regulator to weigh plans to speed up green energy connection

Source: By Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom, Reuters • Posted: Thursday, July 27, 2023

Plants grow through an array of solar panels in Fort Lauderdale
Plants grow through an array of solar panels in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, U.S., May 6, 2022. REUTERS/Brian Snyder/File Photo

WASHINGTON/LOS ANGELES, July 27 (Reuters) – U.S. regulators on Thursday will vote on proposals to speed up the connection of new energy projects to the electric grid, which could ease a growing backlog of requests from renewable energy developers and deliver more green energy to consumers.

Long waits for transmission interconnection have slowed efforts to ease wild pricing and tight power supply in some markets, and hobbled the deployment of big solar and wind projects that the Biden administration wants built to combat climate change.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) will bring up its proposed improvements for the grid interconnection process at its monthly meeting later on Thursday, according to its agenda. The planned vote comes nearly one year after landmark legislation aimed at boosting renewable energy projects called the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) became law.

FERC Chairman Willie Phillips said in May that the commission could address the problem in part by shifting the approval process from a “first come, first serve” approach to a “first ready” approach – meaning projects that are ready with land rights and permits could move ahead instead of waiting behind developers that are less prepared.

New renewable generators and battery storage resources currently must go through a complex process before they can be connected. That process, which includes multiple studies of how their projects will affect the grid, can be costly and time consuming.

An April analysis by the government-funded Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory found that the average interconnection process takes five years, more than double the time than in 2008. Meanwhile, last year’s passage of the IRA, which offers tax credits for renewable energy, has spurred major investment in new projects.

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The interconnection proposal is part of a broader package of reforms FERC is working on in coming months to help hasten the deployment of renewable energy and storage. It is also seeking to finalize proposals this year to improve planning and cost allocation for transmission lines.

Reporting by Valerie Volcovici and Nichola Groom; editing by Susan Heavey

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Valerie Volcovici covers U.S. environment and energy policy from Washington, DC. She is focused on climate and environmental regulations at federal agencies and in Congress. She also covers the impact of these regulatory changes across the United States. Other areas of coverage include plastic pollution and international climate negotiations.