On May 22, 2019, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (“DPU”) opened a new docket (D.P.U. 19-55) to investigate the interconnection of distributed generation (“DG”) in Massachusetts. (And yes, the DPU intends to include energy storage interconnection in this docket despite defining DG as “technologies that generate electricity”.)
While complaints about costs, delays, and increased volume of interconnection applications have been growing, and merit investigation independently, the timing of this docket — soon after it came to light that National Grid had put hundreds of megawatts of DG projects on hold in central and western Massachusetts to conduct a “Cluster Study” of potential DG impacts to the transmission system — is probably not a coincidence. That study process has engulfed projects at all levels of development, including projects that were expecting to be operational imminently. It appears to be a major stumble for the deployment of DG in Massachusetts and may have industry-wide ripple effects as projects that thought they were good to go handle the fallout of uncertain delays and added costs.
While the Cluster Study situation may overshadow this new docket, at least at first, the DPU intends to look at other issues that will also be critical as the presence of DG and energy storage on the Massachusetts electric grid continues to expand. Interconnection standards for energy storage, approaches to handling increased interconnection applications, and yet another look at timelines and timing expectations could all result in improvements to the DG interconnection process. Of course, if not done right, changes to the interconnection process could be less than helpful. The last comprehensive DPU evaluation of DG interconnection (D.P.U. 11-75) began in 2011 and led to a working group, tariff revisions, and significant changes to the interconnection process over the course of a few years (and multiple DPU orders). This new docket could follow a similar path.
A technical conference at the DPU’s offices in South Station is scheduled for July 18, 2019, and the DPU has asked the participants register online by July 1, 2019.