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A new rule could lead to a massive change in America's clean energy grid: 'This is a watershed moment'

It's "a step in the right direction," one expert said.

Federal Energy Regulatory Commission rule, Change in America’s energy grid

Photo Credit: iStock

Big news in the world of clean energy: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) approved a rule that will accelerate the connection of energy projects to the power grid in a move that should speed up the process of getting renewable energy to more people.

The process has been mired by widespread delays. At the end of 2022, there were over 2,000 gigawatts of proposed solar, wind, and battery storage projects waiting to be connected in the U.S. through what's called the interconnection process, reported E&E News by Politico. That's at least as much capacity as all of the power plants currently connected to the grid, as Electrek reported.

It's taken new electricity projects an average of five years to be studied and approved for connection, possibly due to the sheer volume of proposed projects. Under this FERC rule, proposed projects will be studied in groups rather than individually. 

On top of that, grid operators and electric utilities will have deadlines for processing connection requests and will face penalties if they fail to meet them, per Bloomberg Law. Also, projects that are further along in development will be prioritized.

"This new rule will enable America's vast power generation resources to connect to the grid in a reliable, efficient, transparent, and timely manner," FERC Chairman Willie Phillips said in a statement, "and in doing so, help provide more reliable, resilient, and affordable electricity for all consumers."

Phillips added: "This is a watershed moment for our nation's transmission grid."

Over 90% of the 2,000 gigawatts waiting to be connected to the grid is renewable energy generation. 

In 2022, the generation of electricity in the U.S. accounted for about 1,539 million metric tons (about 1.696 million tons) of carbon dioxide.

Making the transition to clean energy not only cuts back on emissions that are harmful to the environment, but building the necessary infrastructure to do so also creates a lot of jobs. As of January 2023, nearly 13 million people worldwide worked in the renewable energy sector, with over 8 million of those in the U.S.

But clean energy developers have complained that the connection process has gotten in the way of meeting goals in the Inflation Reduction Act.

The new rule will ensure clean energy gets connected to the grid faster than it otherwise would have.

Melissa Alfano, director of energy markets and counsel at the Solar Energy Industries Association, told Electrek: "Interconnection reforms need to be meaningful to make a difference, and this final ruling from FERC is a step in the right direction."

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