FERC Decision On Transmission Could Streamline Utility-Scale Solar Power Development

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) has issued a ruling on transmission planning and cost allocation that is expected to help ease transmission-building problems, which currently present a major hurdle for many large-scale solar power projects in the U.S.

FERC's Order No. 1000 is intended to address what the agency calls ‘remaining deficiencies’ that exist regarding the development of new electrical transmission capacity and how the costs for these facilities are distributed among project developers and other parties.

The Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA) applauded FERC's decision, as many large-scale PV and concentrating solar power projects under development are located in remote locations that are far removed from electricity-demand centers.

‘FERC's final rule establishes a balanced framework for the adoption of regional solutions to transmission challenges,’ said SEIA President and CEO Rhone Resch in a statement.

‘This rule will facilitate the development of utility-scale solar power in the Southwest, where some of the world's best solar resources are found, but are restricted by a lack of adequate access to the nation's rapidly aging transmission infrastructure,’ he explained. ‘It also protects consumers by assuring that only those who benefit from new transmission facilities pay for them.’

Under FERC's new rule, all public utility transmission providers must participate in a regional transmission-planning process in order to come up with a regional transmission plan; both local and regional transmission-planning processes must take into account public-policy requirements; and neighboring public utility transmission providers must coordinate with each other to find potential cost savings and efficiencies.

The rule establishes similar requirements for cost allocation: All public utility commission providers must participate in a regional planning process to develop a cost-allocation method that meets several cost-allocation principles; neighboring public utility transmission providers must have a ‘common interregional cost allocation method’ that all regions have deemed efficient or cost-effective; and participant funding of new transmission facilities can no longer be used as the regional or interregional cost-allocation method.

Further details on FERC's order are available here.

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