Solar, Wind Power

Interconnection Advances for Colorado Renewable Energy

In what could be the first example of seamless integration between federal and state interconnection rules for small generators, a wide cross-section of interests in Colorado have filed with the state’s public utility commission for the adoption of new net-metering rules.

If passed, the measures would put Colorado on par with states like New Jersey and Pennsylvania, which have high thresholds for the amount of energy that can be generated from consumer- and business-sited renewable energy systems, according to the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC). As part of the implementation of Colorado’s citizen-initiated renewable portfolio standard (RPS), passed in November 2004 and known as Amendment 37, the state’s utilities are required to adopt net metering and interconnection standards. During summer 2005, representatives from the Colorado environmental community and renewable-energy community — Colorado Solar Energy Industries Association (CSEIA), the local American Solar Energy Society (ASES) chapter, PV NOW and IREC — met with utility representatives from Xcel and Aquila to discuss implementation of Amendment 37. From these discussions, the parties reached agreement on several key items for implementation, including net metering and interconnection. However, the parties did not reach agreement on other key program areas. The parties submitted a consensus filing on August 15, 2005, to the Colorado Public Utilities Commission (CPUC), indicating that the parties had reached agreement on simplified net metering for commercial and residential renewable-energy systems up to 2 megawatts (MW) in capacity. Net metering — available to solar, wind and other renewables — would involve a single, bi-directional meter if available under the customer’s tariff. Net excess generation (NEG) would be carried forward each month, with an annual reconciliation at year’s end. A customer-generator’s utility would provide a one-time meter change, if necessary to permit net metering, but any additional meter changes would come at the customer-generator’s expense. If the CPUC accepts the consensus filing, Colorado would join New Jersey and Pennsylvania as the states with the highest limits for net metering in the country. New Jersey has already implemented net metering rules for systems up to 2 MW, while Pennsylvania statute implementing the state’s alternative energy portfolio standard (enacted in November 2004) calls for a 2-MW limit on net metering. Regarding interconnection, the Colorado consensus filing represents the first state adoption of interconnection rules that largely follow the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission’s (FERC) recently promulgated interconnection rules for small generators. Much of the interconnection text is drawn directly from the FERC standard’s language, including provisions for inverter-based systems 10 kilowatts (kW) or less. In addition, the expedited interconnection process for generators up to 2 MW in capacity is drawn largely from the FERC rules. Because the state consensus relies on the FERC rules, Colorado would be the first state with seamless integration between the federal interconnection rules and the state interconnection rules for small generators. The Colorado consensus filing improves on FERC’s rules by clarifying the procedures for interconnections to area and spot networks. It also removes some ambiguity in the FERC rules regarding insurance, and imposes an affirmative requirement that owners of distributed generation must carry general liability insurance of at least $300,000 for residential customers and $2,000,000 for commercial. No other specific insurance is required. In addition, the consensus filing includes provisions for a dispute-resolution process. For more information on the consensus filings, contact the Colorado PUC. This article courtesy of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC)