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FERC approves MISO plan to expedite interconnection timelines for new generators


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FERC approves MISO plan to expedite interconnection timelines for new generators

  • Author Zack Hale
  • Theme Energy

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on March 14 approved changes to the Midcontinent ISO's generator interconnection procedures that are expected to ease a backlog of proposed renewable energy projects.

MISO filed the proposed changes in December 2021 with broad support among the 15-state grid operator's stakeholders (ER22-661).

In doing so, MISO explained that its current generator interconnection process has become inefficient because projects that are ready and willing to negotiate a permanent interconnection agreement are not allowed to do so in an expedited fashion.

As of April 2021, MISO had more than 700 active projects in its interconnection queue totaling nearly 110 GW in nameplate capacity. Of those, more than two-thirds were solar projects and 20% were wind, according to the latest annual report from MISO's independent market monitor.

To help streamline and expedite its complex interconnection process, MISO proposed to allow new generators to proceed to interconnection agreement negotiations before all related facilities studies are complete.

Facility studies estimate the cost and time required to build the actual interconnection to the electric grid as well as any related network upgrades triggered by the new generator. The studies are known for being costly and time consuming.

"There is no good reason for not allowing interconnection customers to initiate these tasks earlier in the process if they are willing to accept the resulting risks and uncertainties," MISO said.

As a remedy, MISO proposed to establish two interconnection paths: a default path and an optional path. Under the default path, new generators can proceed to interconnection agreement negotiations without all required facility studies in hand.

The default path is expected to result in an interconnection timeline of about 373 calendar days, while the optional path will result in a timeline of about 463 days, according to MISO.

FERC accepted MISO's proposal in a March 14 order, finding that the proposed default path can accelerate the execution of interconnection agreements "within approximately one year" of a new project starting the study process.

MISO's proposal provides each interconnection customer "a choice between a more timely path to [interconnection agreement] negotiations with less cost certainty or a less timely path with more cost certainty entering into [interconnection agreement] negotiations, based on its preferences," FERC said.

FERC approved the filing with an effective date of March 15. Under MISO's proposal, all interconnection requests will proceed under its revised procedures if they were not started before that date.

"We find that using this transition point is just and reasonable because it allows the majority of interconnection customers in MISO's queue to avail themselves of the new flexibilities without adverse disruptions to the study of their interconnection requests," FERC said.

FERC's order comes as the agency considers major changes to its interconnection policies through a broader rulemaking aimed at speeding U.S. grid build-out. In comments on that proposal, regional grid operators urged the agency to avoid disrupting various reform efforts already underway.

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