Interconnection, In-Depth: The Energy Bar Association Northeast Chapter’s Spring 2024 Energizer

Since June 2022, law practitioners have been weighing in, waiting, and wondering: how (and how much) will existing interconnection processes change?

By Mack Ramsden, Foley Hoag

Ever since the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (“FERC”) signaled in June 2022 that it was considering requiring updates to transmission providers’ generator interconnection procedures, energy law practitioners have been weighing in, waiting, and wondering:  how (and how much) will existing interconnection processes change?  To what degree will the new processes vary, both from each other and from FERC’s pro forma tariff?  And of course:  will the queue backlogs finally clear?  In the months since FERC issued Order No. 2023 in July 2023, speculation has only grown.

Last week, the Energy Bar Association’s Northeast Chapter assembled a panel of attorneys from the three East Coast regional transmission organizations (“RTOs”)-Christopher Holt, Associate General Counsel at PJM Interconnection, LLC (“PJM”), Sara Keegan, Assistant General Counsel at the New York Independent System Operator, Inc. (“NYISO”), and Graham Jesmer, Regulatory Counsel responsible for Operations and Planning at ISO New England (“ISO-NE”)-to answer some of these questions.  The panel was hosted at K&L Gates LLP’s New York City offices and moderated by K&L Gates partner Theodore Paradise.

As the panelists reminded the audience, each of the RTOs represented is positioned differently with regard to its current interconnection procedures and its approach to the Order No. 2023 compliance process.  For example: ISO-NE still maintains a fully serial interconnection queue, while NYISO already conducts a hybrid serial and cluster study process-though, as Ms. Keegan acknowledged, one that is “almost the opposite” of what Order No. 2023 requires.  The RTOs similarly diverge in how they plan to address certain of the Order’s requirements with which they do not agree:  PJM raised a number of issues in its initial Order No. 2023 compliance filing, some of which FERC has now clarified or affirmed in Order No. 2023-A, and has already challenged Order No. 2023 at the D.C. Circuit. NYISO and ISO-NE, on the other hand, both plan to seek a number of independent entity variations to account for unique regional circumstances.

Despite these differences, it is clear that industry participants in every represented RTO can expect to see more and better interconnection data earlier in the process. In the NYISO, stringent modeling and data submission requirements are expected to increase transparency and shorten application processing times; in ISO-NE, an improved heatmap of interconnection requests and granular data from previous cluster studies will give prospective customers valuable and actionable information before they file their interconnection requests. Additionally, panelists agreed that the reforms will facilitate productive face-to-face discussions between RTOs and project developers, a valued feature of the current interconnection processes which some industry members had feared might be lost in the creation of the new cluster studies.

As all regulatory attorneys know, patience is a virtue, and one that practitioners will need to have with respect to Order Nos. 2023 and 2023-A-the ultimate effects of which will remain uncertain for some time. But for now, energy law practitioners should keep pace with the RTOs as they continue navigating the compliance process and deploy their new interconnection schemes.  Indeed, PJM’s transitional cluster study process is already underway, and the NYISO’s will kick off in just a few weeks.

Many thanks to Mr. Paradise, Mr. Holt, Ms. Keegan, and Mr. Jesmer, and the EBA Northeast Chapter hopes to see you all at our various events in the coming months, including at the Annual Meeting in Washington, D.C. on April 25-26.