Seth Hilton Discusses California Efforts to Ensure State’s Interconnection Process Can Support its Green Power Goals


Energy development attorney Seth Hilton contributed an article to Law360 titled “Interconnection Process Is Key To Calif.’s Green Power Goals,” published January 21, 2022. (Subscription required.) In the article, Hilton delves into whether the California Independent System Operator’s (CAISO) interconnection process — the procedure by which power plants are interconnected to the power grid — can keep up with state’s goal to procure tens of thousands of megawatts of new electric power resources to meet its 10-year greenhouse gas targets.

In late 2021, as part of its Integrated Resource Planning proceeding, the California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) issued a proposed decision that would approve its 2021 Preferred System Plan portfolio, comprising more than 40 MW of new resources, the majority of which is utility-scale solar and battery energy storage. The CPUC also ordered load-serving entities to engage in short- and midterm procurement to ensure energy supply reliability through 2024, with the priority being to address the demand of the summers of 2022 and 2023.

A hurdle in achieving these goals is the number of interconnection requests CAISO receives, which more than doubled in 2021 from 2020, leading CAISO in September 2021 to file with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to extend its interconnection process by approximately one year to allow it to handle the volume.

To address the challenges created by the increased number of interconnection requests, in September 2021 CAISO also began a stakeholder initiative — the Interconnection Process Enhancements Initiative — that will focus on near-term enhancements for the cluster of interconnection requests dating from 2021 and on longer-term objectives to align the interconnection processes with procurement activities.

Hilton concludes: “If California is to achieve its greenhouse gas goals and procure the resource mix set out in the CPUC’s latest PSP plan, it will be essential that CAISO’s current stakeholder initiative address the current interconnection challenges — including the volume of requests CAISO is receiving. CAISO and the CPUC will also need to better coordinate procurement decisions, to ensure that those decisions mesh with CAISO’s interconnection processes.”

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