With the number of small and medium-scale renewable energy projects on the rise in Massachusetts, the Department of Energy Resources (DOER) has filed a report with the Department of Public Utilities (DPU) outlining recommendations aimed at improving the process through which utility companies connect new renewable energy generation projects to the electric grid that feeds power to customers throughout Massachusetts.
The action was taken in conjunction with the release of a new study by the office of Gov. Deval Patrick. The report showed that sharp growth in renewable energy generation projects sparked a seven-fold increase in demand for interconnection service between 2004 and 2010. The distributed-generation sector in Massachusetts is relatively new and has grown sharply in recent years.
The DOER's filing with the DPU requested several changes to the interconnection process. The DOER requested that the DPU mandate shorter, clearer and binding timelines for interconnection applications. These timelines would be significantly shorter than those in the existing tariff, and enforceable by the DPU.
The DOER recommended that the DPU create a uniform, user-friendly, online application system that would automatically and transparently track whether each utility meets established timelines, and allow applicants and state regulators to monitor the status of an application in real time.
The DOER also recommended that the DPU assign an interconnection ombudsperson responsible for hearing and quickly resolving issues arising during the interconnection process.
The Patrick administration's report recommended 10 changes to the existing interconnection process in order to accommodate the large increase in demand for distributed generation. Projects currently seeking interconnection to the grid must go through the existing interconnection process in order to connect non-utility-scale generation installations to the electric grid.
The DOER says it emphasized many of the report's recommendations in its request to the DPU, in addition to making some new suggestions. The recommendations also include developing guidance on state and federal requirements and expanding education on the interconnection process for installers.
‘This timely analysis illustrates the significant growth of distributed generation and renewables in Massachusetts,’ says Peter Rothstein, president of the New England Clean Energy Council. ‘Its recommendations to expedite the interconnection process are welcomed wholeheartedly by the clean energy industry.’