The Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) in a May 22 order said that it is opening an inquiry to review the current standards and procedures by which distributed generation (DG) facilities are interconnected to the electric power system.
The DPU said that during the past year, it has received numerous inquiries from DG interconnection stakeholders seeking clarification of certain aspects of the DG interconnection process. The DPU also noted that changes to Massachusetts’ energy related policies have created a favorable setting for the development of DG projects based on renewable technologies. As a result, the DPU said, it understands that there has been an increase in DG interconnection applications submitted to the electric distribution companies in certain regions within the state.
As such, the DPU said that it finds it necessary to revisit its current interconnection standards and procedures to determine what changes, if any, should be implemented to ensure an efficient and effective interconnection process that will foster continued growth of DG in Massachusetts consistent with ensuring the safety and reliability of the electric power system. To that end, the DPU said that it intends to engage all interested persons in a broadly represented stakeholder process to address DG interconnection issues.
The DPU noted that in 2002, it opened an investigation into interconnection standards and practices that reduce barriers to the installation of DG. The DPU said that it worked with interested participants through the Massachusetts DG Interconnection Collaborative, resulting in implementation of a model interconnection tariff used by each electric distribution company for interconnecting DG.
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) in August 2011 filed a petition with the DPU requesting that the DPU open a proceeding on DG interconnection. The DPU added that DOER’s petition as accompanied by the Massachusetts DG Interconnection Report (DG Report) prepared by KEMA, Inc., on behalf of DOER and the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center. The DG Report identified various issues associated with the current DG interconnection standards and application procedure, the DPU said, adding that the DG Report proposed a redesign of the interconnection process in order to facilitate the growth of DG in Massachusetts.
The DPU in September 2011 opened an investigation into DG interconnection in Massachusetts, reviewing the existing DG interconnection standards and application procedures to determine what changes should be implemented to ensure an efficient and effective interconnection process.
The DPU added that it convened in January 2012 a DG working group tasked with, for instance, determining what issues should be resolved regarding the current DG interconnection standards and application procedure to ensure an efficient and effective interconnection process. The working group in September 2012 issued its final report, which contained many recommendations for changes to the DG Interconnection Tariff and additional recommendations that did not fall squarely within the tariff. The DPU added that it approved many of the working group’s proposed recommendations.
The DPU said that in its new investigation, it intends to build on the work of the DG Collaborative and the working group, as well as to update the model DG Interconnection Tariff, if necessary.
The DPU said that through the investigation, it will coordinate with other state agencies and engage with interested stakeholders to address key issues related to DG interconnection in Massachusetts. In the initial phase of the investigation, the DPU said that it intends to hold several technical conferences to address critical issues related to DG interconnection that have been raised to the DPU over the past year.
The initial scope of the investigation will be limited to these topics:
- Interconnection of energy storage systems
- Methods to manage high volume queues for DG interconnection
- Process related to affected system operator studies conducted during DG interconnection
- Timeline enforcement mechanism
- Interconnection process for DG facilities interconnecting to the transmission system
The DPU also said that it will hold a technical conference on July 18 at its offices in Boston, Mass., and that it will provide additional information in advance of July 18.