PJM Kicks off Workshops to Study Interconnection Process

About 300 Participants Attended Oct. 30 Session; Stakeholders Will Present Dec. 11

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The first of four PJM workshops designed to explore potential reform of the grid interconnection process drew about 300 participants, who heard presentations on the history of related federal policy, the current queue process and trends, and how PJM’s approach differs from that of other bulk electric system operators.

The daylong sessions are being held in response to changes in the makeup of the project interconnection queue driven by increasing numbers of smaller generation resources – primarily renewable and storage – seeking to join the system.

The volume, size and type of projects is changing, said Ken Seiler, Vice President – Planning. More than 80 percent of projects in the queue represent megawatts being generated by wind, solar or storage resources.

During PJM’s latest new services request window, which was open from April 1 to Sept. 30, 563 projects entered PJM’s new services queue – a record not only for PJM, but for the country, said Jason Connell, Manager – Interconnection Projects.

Guided by FERC

PJM’s interconnection process is largely driven by Federal Energy Regulatory Commission policy established over the past 17 years, said Craig Glazer, Vice President – Federal Government Policy.

“We are a creature of FERC regulations,” Glazer said. “These principles guide much of what we do and why we do it. I’m a firm believer that before you discuss where you want to go, it’s important to discuss how you got to where you are today.”

The fundamental ruling that has shaped interconnection policy is Order 2003, implemented in 2003, Glazer said. The focus at that time was threefold:

  • Limit the opportunity for non-independent transmission providers to favor their own generation
  • Facilitate market entry for generation competitors by reducing interconnection costs and time
  • Encourage needed investment in generator and transmission infrastructure

A key component of FERC policy has been to ensure fair allocation of costs between interconnection customers and load. Over time, FERC has relaxed some of its rules and also recognized the uniqueness of certain types of generation, Glazer said.

Given the driving force behind the interconnection process, Glazer said change could come by any or all of three avenues, alone or in combination:

  • Process reforms, which PJM can undertake within the existing framework
  • PJM-specific policy reforms that would need to be justified under FERC standards of review defined in Order 2003
  • Requests for a larger FERC effort to update and reform interconnection policies nationally

Where the Process Stands Today

Connell and Susan McGill, Manager – Interconnection Analysis, walked participants through an overview of the interconnection process.

The purpose of the interconnection process, they explained, is to:

  • Facilitate the interconnection of new generation
  • Guide developers through the process on a timely basis
  • Provide the cost to physically connect the generator to the transmission system along with necessary network upgrades

They laid out the path from new service request to feasibility, impact and facility studies; then to various agreements; and finally on to commercial operation and market participation.

Along the way, about a third of projects fall out of the queue for a variety of reasons.

Currently, there are 1,600 projects under study, representing 147,775 MW of proposed generation capability.

McGill and Connell outlined recent changes to transparency and flexibility, to the process itself, and to the way PJM allocates personnel to the interconnection queue.

The presentation also detailed the distinctive features of PJM:

  • No matter where connected, generation must be able to serve load anywhere within PJM.
  • PJM’s planning criteria focuses on reliability, not economics, and it’s more conservative than NERC standards.
  • The cost for upgrades is not reimbursed by consumers (load).
  • There is no obligation for ongoing transmission service.

Workshop Schedule

Jen Tribulski, Senior Director – Member Services, said the next workshop, scheduled for Dec. 11, will serve as a listening session for PJM to collect feedback on the interconnection process.

“We really want to hear your thoughts on how you think the process works,” she said. “Where are you experiencing issues? What are your thoughts are on the trends? What are your top three objectives when entering the queue? What would you like improvements to the process to do?

“We want to hear from as many stakeholders as possible.”

Tribulski said the plan is to allow each speaker 8–10 minutes. PJM does not plan to provide any responses to the issues at this meeting.

The schedule is as follows:

Session 2: Stakeholder Presentations (Dec. 11, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.)

This session will provide an opportunity for interested stakeholders to express their concerns about PJM’s interconnection process.

Session 3: PJM Response to Stakeholder Presentations (to be scheduled for early 2021)

This session will provide PJM an opportunity to respond to the stakeholder presentations.

Session 4: Path Forward (to be scheduled for early 2021)

PJM will moderate a discussion regarding the path forward for reforms suggested by stakeholders that PJM hopes to explore and possibly adopt. If desired enhancements will involve a Tariff or manual change, a stakeholder process appropriate to the scope and issues being addressed will be initiated.