The California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) has adopted a substantial revision to Rule 21 – the state's interconnection procedures – which removes some of the barriers to the continued growth of the state's renewable energy market, according to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC).
Following a yearlong review, the commission unanimously approved a settlement among the three major investor-owned utilities and 11 other stakeholders, IREC says.
The settlement puts in place new procedures through changes to Rule 21. The new Rule 21 adopts a modified screening mechanism that more effectively sorts applicants into a study path that corresponds to the level of review necessary for the project, IREC says, adding that the new multi-tiered study process will allow the state to safely and reliably move toward higher penetrations of renewables while still processing applications efficiently.
"This ruling is of national interest," explains IREC Executive Director Jane Weissman. "Regulatory successes like this in one state provide replicable examples for other states, providing the foundation for a robust clean energy industry in the public's best interest."
Specifically, IREC says the revised procedures drastically improve the clarity of the supplemental-review process by adding precise screens and including concrete timelines for review completion. The procedures retain the 15% of peak-load penetration screen in the initial fast-track review process, but under the supplemental-review process, the utilities will apply a 100% minimum load threshold.
The revisions to Rule 21 are also significant for transmission-dependent projects that need to be studied in conjunction with projects proceeding under the federally regulated tariffs of the utilities and the California Independent System Operator, IREC says.
For instance, numerous wholesale distributed generation projects in Southern California Edison's territory had been stuck in a seemingly never-ending study cycle due to these dependencies. The improved procedures should provide those projects a path forward and reduce the extensive study queues found in some areas, IREC explains.
According to Weissman, the modified process adopted in Rule 21 shows a positive evolution in interconnection standards that is responsive to the increased levels of penetration being seen in California.
"This change builds on enhancements IREC helped to bring forward in Hawaii last year, and IREC hopes to see other high penetration states consider similar improvements in the coming year," she says.