A new study looks at how long utilities are taking to integrate small solar like rooftop solar into their electric grid. The study, Comparing Utility Interconnection Timelines for Small-Scale Solar PV, by EQ Research found that between 2013 and 2014 the amount of time it took 34 leading utilities to allow customers with rooftop solar installations to start producing their own electricity went up by 5 days.
The report said that as distributed generation (i.e., rooftop solar) penetration has gone up utilities are more likely to deny or delay DG system interconnection. The report found utilities are doing this in a number of ways, among them raising safety and grid reliability concerns. “However, many utilities—even some with high levels of DG penetration—process and approve customer interconnection through quick, streamlined processes, illustrating that solutions to existing challenges are within reach,” the report stated.
The report found that in 2014 the amount of time it took for 34 leading utilities to approve a newly installed system with the permission to operate grew 68 percent over the previous year. “For the 24 utilities operating under state interconnection procedures that prescribe PTO deadlines, the average PTO waiting period reported exceeded the regulated limit for 14 of those utilities,” the report noted. It wasn’t just increased delays, however. “Rejections related to grid reliability concerns increased significantly in 2014, with installers reporting denials in 14 utility service territories.”
The national average time to interconnect solar systems was 25 days in 2014, according to the report. However, it’s much higher in some markets. The Washington Post observed that the worst utility for interconnecting a solar array was PepCo (Potomac Electric Power Co.), which had an average waiting time of 76 day before allowing a system online. CL&P (Connecticut Light & Power) led the country in connecting solar arrays quickly, approving them in within 5 days of a request.
“As DG penetration levels rise, PTO waiting periods are expected to increase unless efforts are made to streamline the process,” the report found. Furthermore the issue of taking longer to connect these arrays has a significant impact on the solar and energy industries as well as the individual consumer. “The Department of Energy estimates that if interconnection for every PV system projected to be installed in 2015 was delayed one day, it would cost the U.S. $4 million in lost electricity generation. On an individual level, a hypothetical customer that installs a 5 kW system in Maryland would be deprived of approximately $73.48 in electricity generation for every month that interconnection is delayed,” the report found.
To avert or avoid these problems, the report made a number of recommendations. Among the recommendations it called on regulators to set firm deadlines for bringing new systems online after completion, incorporate a strategy of accommodating more interconnection applications. It recommended utilities make grid penetration maps available to show where interconnection bottlenecks might be and streamline the process, including creating an online registration process, and making solar penetration studies available to customers and solar installers.Tweet