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Federal rule makes connecting renewable energy to electric grid easier

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The rules for interconnecting electric generators to the transmission grid are like human physiology – complicated to understand by most, taken for granted by many and important to the overall system.

Yesterday, the federal register published revised rules that govern interconnections by small electric generators.

The changes make it easier for small generators that create electricity from renewable energy, such as solar and wind, to hook up to the electric grid.

D.C. has a large and increasing number of small electric generators, many of which create electricity from rooftop photovoltaic, called PV, cells. Expecting this rooftop solar power to increase, the D.C. Office of Peoples Council supported the proposed rule.

Solar power is created by generation of electricity from the sun’s heat and by the photovoltaic process from the sun’s electrical energy. It represents one of the fastest growing forms of small power generation produced near homes and businesses where the electricity is used.

“[The rule] represent[s] an important step towards ensuring that administrative procedures reflect the growth of the wholesale distributed generation market and do not create unnecessary delay and costs…,” the Office of People’s Council said.

The Solar Energy Industries Association had initiated the interconnection-rule changes by a petition filed in February 2012, with the federal agency that regulates interstate transmission and wholesales of electric power.

PEPCO holdings, Inc., which controls PEPCO and provides transmission and distribution of electricity to homes and businesses in D.C., had offered a number of technical modifications.

When it becomes effective February 3, 2014, the rule will make it easier for small electric generators to obtain interconnection information from the interconnecting utility. Once effective, the rule also will expand the scope of expedited interconnection procedures.

The new federal procedures generally will apply to interconnections by small electric generators at points on the grid before utilities, such as PEPCO, deliver power to customer meters.

Most small generator interconnections, including a large portion of local rooftop solar power in D.C., will remain subject to local regulatory interconnection rules. But the new federal rule seeks to provide changes that D.C. and states might want to incorporate into their own interconnection procedures.

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