What's the state of electrical grid and how are we prepared to integrate the new backlog of projects that are necessary for a greener grid?
Emily Pontecorvo of Grist shares an insightful perspective about the process of how a utility project works through the 'interconnection queue' and how this process has been slowed to a 'traffic jam' that has real consequences on our collective ability to transition our electrical grid into greener and more reliable infrastructure.
At the end of 2021, 93% of projects that applied for grid access to their respective grid operator were for renewable energy generation. The ability for an application to move through the process from application to construction has been significantly slowed to the point where many applicants have withdrawn.
For perspective, the average time a project spends in the queue has doubled from 2 years in 2010, to 4 years in 2021.
The need to find a path forward.
There is a macro need for us to figure it out. As we move from fossil fuels to more electric vehicles, heaters, and electric equipment; the Department of Energy projects that we will increase our energy use by 40% in the next 25 years. That means that that we must not only increase our grid capacity, but also increase our generation of power. The sense of urgency does exist, if all the projects in the queue were built tomorrow, we would only be at 80% of our Country's established clean electric grid.
There is a distinct need to reframe the situation as one that affects us all, regardless of political, ideological, or other differences. The situation requires contribution from various sources and stakeholders to meet the needs of our Country's energy needs and management of climate impact.
Although regulatory and administrative processes need to revisited to allow the throughput of responsible projects to access the grid - that is just the start. After a project has been approved by a grid operator, there still needs to be an engineering effort where studies are performed and an 'interconnect agreement' is reached. Construction permits and contracts must be issued to establish defined budgets and financial impacts that may be absorbed by many. To that end, deals must be made with power buyers and communities and finally......the project needs to be built.
The solution begins with identifying the problem. From there, we can and will come together to engineer the solutions required to meet the needs of our communities and Country. IEC has made a concerted effort and commitment to be part of the conversation and part of the solution through our T&D Design services and Electrical Construction competencies that are crucial for us to tackle a system scale challenge.