The nation’s largest electrical grid operator has approved a new process for adding power plants to the sprawling transmission system it manages, including a two-year pause on reviewing and potentially approving some 1,200 projects, mostly solar power, that are part of a controversial backlog.
PJM Interconnection runs a competitive wholesale electricity market that serves all or part of 13 states, the District of Columbia and northern Illinois. According to PJM, the plan is the result PJM’s work over the past year and what it calls its stakeholders. These include electric utilities, electric transmission owners and state and consumer interests.
“These changes represent a landmark accomplishment for PJM stakeholders and staff that establishes a better process to handle the unprecedented influx of generation interconnection requests and is critical to clearing the backlog of projects,” said PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana.
PJM remains committed to a strategy of “decarbonization policies while preserving reliability and cost-effectiveness,” Asthana said.
However, the backlog and two-year pause for many projects, with the potential of even longer delays on new proposal, have frustrated a lot of renewable energy developers.
In January, an outspoken Adam Edelen, a former Kentucky state auditor who runs a company working to bring solar projects and jobs to ailing coal communities in Appalachia, said he was concerned that “the kink in the system” was helping to delay effective climate policy in the United States. “The planet does not have time for a delay,” he said at the time.
Approval delays were putting solar developers in a financial bind and calling into question the Biden administration’s goal of having a carbon-free electricity grid in just 13 years, he cautioned.
Edelen late Thursday afternoon said he was still reviewing PJM’s announcement, which went out on Thursday.
“The current situation is preventing clean energy projects from coming online and is unsustainable,” said Kat Burnham, a principal of Advanced Energy Economy, a trade group for clean energy businesses that has expressed frustration with the situation. “While the reforms aren’t perfect, the updated process will help mitigate the project backlog. Any further delays would be worse for advanced energy projects and America’s clean energy transition.”
Jeffrey Shields, a PJM spokesperson, stated that PJM would submit its plan to Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) in May. Shields stated that FERC has 60-days to act on the plan or it could not and the plan would be in effect.
Officials at PJM have stated that they have seen a significant shift in the type and number of energy projects that are being added to a grid over the past four years. Each project must be carefully studied to ensure reliability. PJM used to see fewer but more large-scale fossil fuel proposals. They are now seeing more small, but largely renewable energy projects.
The grid operator is based in Valley Forge (Pennsylvania), and has approximately 2,500 projects on the horizon.
PJM has proposed a two-phased approach.
The new approval process will place projects that are most ready for construction at the top of the line and discourage those that may be more speculative, or have not secured all their financing.
Then, an interim period will put a two-year delay on about 1,250 projects in their queue—close to half of the total—and defer the review of new projects until the fourth quarter of 2025, with final decisions on those coming as late as the end of 2027.
Keep Environmental Journalism Alive
ICN provides award winning climate coverage without charge or advertising. To continue, we rely on donations from readers like yourself.
Shields stated that PJM will continue work on more 1,200 projects during the two year transition. These include more 100,000 megawatts of solar energy. “There is no shortage of renewables poised to come online,” he said.
The backlog, which is partly due to the surge in interest in solar energy and varies from one state to another, is not fixed. In states like Virginia and Pennsylvania, hundreds of projects were awaiting review, while in West Virginia and Kentucky, there were dozens.
Jamar Thrasher, a spokesperson for the Pennsylvania Energy Office, stated that they were still reviewing the plan.
“We support the changes PJM is implementing to create a more efficient and effective process, which will allow for the timely interconnection of generation to the PJM grid while ensuring reliability,” said Tammy Ridout, spokeswoman for the Ohio-based utility AEP.
“These improvements are critical to handle the influx of interconnection requests we have seen in recent years and will see for the foreseeable future,” said Ken Seiler, PJM vice president of planning, in a written statement. “This plan represents a real compromise among many different interests to get renewable and other projects through the queue as fast as possible and give developers a clearer picture of their costs and timelines.”
Source: Inside Climate News