Distributed generation (DG) projects across the Commonwealth have been stalled in the midst of the “Cluster Study” impacting National Grid’s service territory in central and western Massachusetts. National Grid describes the study’s purpose as determining the impacts on the transmission system of interconnecting over 900 MW in DG projects—mostly solar—to its distribution system. National Grid says the study will be completed by March 2020.
As we previously noted, in light of the significant disruption to solar development in Massachusetts and ongoing problems with the interconnection process, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (the DPU) opened an inquiry in May 2019 to “revisit” its interconnection standards and procedures. As part of this proceeding, the Department held a technical conference on July 18, 2019 to provide opportunity for stakeholder comment and discussion. The conference included participants from the DPU, the Department of Energy Resources, ISO New England, the Attorney General’s Office, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center, the Massachusetts electric distribution companies (EDCs), numerous developers, and trade organizations, among others. Consistent with its agenda, the DPU explained the 19-55 inquiry’s purpose, goals, expected process, and timeline; discussed the DPU’s plans to issue interim guidance regarding DG interconnection; facilitated stakeholder breakout sessions to identify key issues related to interconnection; and addressed next steps.
At the technical conference, the DPU emphasized collaborating with stakeholders and establishing a process moving forward for improving the “standards and procedures related to interconnection of distributed generation to the electric power system.” The Department intends to issue interim guidance on affected system operator (ASO) studies in the short term and invited comments from conference participants regarding suggested best practices, including how EDCs should communicate with customers and the Department about potential placement of facilities in a transmission study and the steps involved with such placement.
The DPU also announced key deadlines for interested parties to participate in revising the DG interconnection process:
- Comments on the current Cluster Study are due August 2, 2019. The Department explained that this is an opportunity to make recommendations to improve the current situation, not to express dissatisfaction about the Cluster Study process so far.
- National Grid is planning to hold an update meeting in mid-August 2019.
- The DPU also announced a process (see slide 7) through which it will consider revisions to the interconnection tariff. EDCs and stakeholders are to submit joint proposed revisions to the interconnection tariff with respect to ASO studies by August 29, 2019.
- Stakeholder comments on the joint proposed interconnection tariff revisions are due on September 9, 2019. This comment period will address issues related to ASO studies that have not yet been agreed upon by the EDCs and stakeholders. The DPU expects to convene another technical conference following the comment period to discuss any remaining issues.