The Planning Committee overwhelmingly endorsed a proposal Feb. 8 detailing how PJM will transition to a new interconnection process designed to get generation and other projects through the planning pipeline faster and help clear the current backlog.
“We are going to see a better, faster, more efficient way to integrate projects into the system and enable states to meet their renewable portfolio goals,” Ken Seiler, Vice President – Planning, told the committee. “It’s going to help us long term to prepare for the grid of the future.”
Seiler emphasized the intensive work stakeholders and PJM have put in over the past 10 months to reach a consensus on changes. A number of stakeholders – including developers, transmission owners and generation owners – concurred, thanking PJM for incorporating their feedback into the final proposal.
Some held the experience up as an example of how the stakeholder process should work – a compromise among diverse parties, representing the best path forward.
Seiler said that while projects that entered the queue before 2021 will be prioritized as part of the transition plan, “We’re not closing the door on new projects.”
“We are prioritizing more than 1,200 projects that we have in our backlog, most of them renewables, and they represent more than 100,000 MW of nameplate capacity – that’s half the capacity we have on our system today,” Seiler said. “We are focused on moving those through the system and streamlining the process as much as possible, and getting real projects interconnected to the queue.”
Seiler said PJM has made significant progress in augmenting staffing in 2021, with plans to continue additional hiring through 2023. PJM has approximately 225,000 MW worth of projects in the PJM New Services Queue, 95% of which are wind, solar, storage or a hybrid of renewables with storage. PJM is also increasing its capital budgets for tools and automation to help in the effort to streamline the study process.
“We recognize that the transition proposition is one that doesn’t satisfy everybody, but it’s going to help us certainly get to the long goal here, which is to interconnect the renewables and any other generation we have in the queue,” Seiler said.
Alternate Plans Fail
The transition proposal garnered 91% approval in a committee vote, mirroring its popularity in a poll previously taken of the Interconnection Process Reform Task Force.
Two other transition plans also were on the table. A proposal by National Grid Renewables, which included one transition cycle compared with PJM’s two, failed with six votes for and 200 against. An alternative proposal offered by Bitter Ridge Wind Farm, Tri Global Energy, Hecate Energy and Leeward Energy also failed, with a vote of 69–134. The PJM transition plan, along with the new process itself, now heads to the Markets & Reliability Committee March 23 for a first read, with an April vote planned for both that group and the Members Committee.
Interconnection Process Reform Goals and Transition
PJM and stakeholders first met in the Interconnection Process Reform Task Force in April 2021, proposing a streamlined new service study process that aims to:
- Address projects on a first-ready, first-served basis. Readiness is demonstrated by financial and site control milestones throughout the study process.
- Simplify the cost construct to limit it to projects studied in the same cycle and have scheduled restudies for project changes that will minimize disruptions.
- Allow certain projects to complete the study process early – projects that don’t contribute to the need for network upgrades and/or don’t need facilities studies will be able to proceed to a final agreement early.
The Planning Committee endorsed the new process proposal by a vote of 256–1 at its January meeting.
Those process reforms were accompanied by a proposed transition plan that would prioritize about half of the 2,500 projects in the queue, including fast-tracking about 450 projects, with the new process being applied to projects beginning in 2024. The intent of the PJM transition plan is to:
- Move to the newly proposed process in a timely manner.
- Get backlogged generation through the queue and into the construction phase.
- Eliminate, or at least limit, the speculation from the queue.
- Reduce the time for closing the queue to as little as possible.
- Balance projects that would have proceeded under existing rules but are delayed due to timing/other projects.
If the plans are endorsed by the Markets & Reliability Committee and the Members Committee in April, PJM expects to file necessary changes with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in May.
Based on the current work plan, the effective date of the transition would be the last quarter of this year or the first quarter of 2023.