Delivering Renewable Energy: How Grid Enhancing Technologies Enable Interconnection and Reduce Curtailment

The WATT Coalition hosted a joint webinar with the American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE) on Monday, April 3rd. See below for key takeaways; download the slides here, or watch the video!

One symptom of inadequate transmission infrastructure is ballooning congestion, which doubled year-over-year in 2021. Electricity customers paid a record $13.4 billion in transmission congestion costs in 2021 across the U.S. estimated by power sector consulting firm Grid Strategies LLC. The WATT Coalition estimates that about 30% of grid congestion can be addressed using Grid Enhancing Technologies (GETs). 

This week, Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) released a report that shows the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) is working: interconnection requests increased 40% in 2022, and 95% of total capacity in the queue are renewables. However, the primary obstacle to getting those projects built is lack of transmission capacity–skyrocketing interconnection costs and causing project withdrawals.

GETs can reduce congestion, provide needed transmission capacity, and enable renewable energy integration to achieving grid reliability, resilience, and decarbonization goals. 

In interconnection, GETs can: 

  • Reduce upgrade costs 
  • Shorten interconnection study and asset construction timelines
  • Reduce project withdrawals due to high interconnection costs
  • Serve as bridge projects to enable clean energy delivery while major, backbone transmission lines are built 

In operations, GETs can reduce transmission congestion and improve reliability through greater awareness and optionality.

In planning, GETs can increase the utilization of new and existing infrastructure, offering greater value on investment to ratepayers.

Despite the value that GETs can offer to the grid, proposals for GETs are often refused by transmission operators with no explanation. Many lines have relatively small line overloads (less than 5%) that can easily and affordably be fixed with GETs–eliminating the need to build new lines for such a minimal overload. 

There are encouraging policies and programs being considered at the federal and state level to ensure that GETs have adequate consideration in interconnection and transmission planning, including:

  1. GETs are included in the FERC planning and interconnection Notice of Proposed Rulemakings (NOPRs)
  2. FERC’s ongoing inquiries into GETs requirements, incentives for adoption, and independent transmission monitoring 
  3. Department of Energy (DOE) programs to support GETs deployments
  4. State Public Utility Commissions (PUCs) investigating their opportunities to include GETs in oversight and climate strategies 

However, none of these initiatives are at the finish line. Even if FERC issues final orders, industry compliance will take years. While decisions are being made, the industry should work to include GETs in interconnection studies now and not wait for the final rulings or other programs to materialize. The Regional Transmission Organizations (RTOs), Independent System Operators (ISOs), and utilities can help this process by: 

  • Work with GETs vendors to develop models to be used in interconnection studies and consider GETs as a valid congestion mitigation alternative in interconnection studies. 
  • Develop procedures to include GETs in planning and operations 
  • Report, in detail, on the evaluation of GETs in interconnection studies, including transparency on why projects are not approved 
  • Update software to include GETs models