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Local News

Backlog hampers renewable energy projects, industry group says

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by Cassie Miller, Pennsylvania Capital-Star
February 26, 2022

Happy weekend, all. 

A recent release by Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), an association of energy-industry businesses, reported that renewable energy projects across the country – and especially in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio – are getting stuck before they can even get started, costing jobs, money and business opportunities.

The AEE release argues that energy projects are getting stuck waiting – sometimes years – for approval by PJM Interconnection LLC, a Norristown-based regional electricity transmitter, that signs off on all regional energy projects needing to connect to the grid.

In Pennsylvania alone, “developers have more than 13 GW of solar power waiting in the queue, projects that together would create nearly 45,000 direct jobs,” according to the AEE analysis. 

So just how long is the wait?

AEE reports that a total of 2,274 projects have been “waiting for an interconnection agreement in the PJM interconnection queue” for a year or more. Of those, a third (758 projects) have been waiting more than 500 days, 22% (497 projects) have been stuck for more than two years, and 166 projects have been waiting more than three years. Ouch.

Since 2017, more than 1,000 clean energy projects have been withdrawn by their developers from the PJM interconnection queue due to the long wait for approval. “That includes over 77,000 MW worth of solar, wind, and battery storage projects that could have powered more than 18 million homes and created 400,000 jobs,” according to AEE.

Does this all sound familiar?

Earlier this week, yours truly reported on another renewable energy project that is having difficulty getting off the ground – albeit, for very different reasons.

So what can be done to address the backlog and get the renewable wheels moving again?

AEE offered up some possible solutions, which include:

  • Setting deadlines for necessary studies,
  • Clustering projects to be studied at the same time rather than one by one, holding entities accountable for completing work on time
  • Requiring higher non-refundable deposits to ensure projects have commercial viability,
  • Proactively planning and building the grid to overcome constraints that stymie clean energy interconnection, such as the lack of existing transmission infrastructure in resource-rich regions,
  • Fairly allocating the costs of transmission to all customers who benefit rather than just the interconnecting generator.

In an effort to address the backlog, PJM has implemented a two-year pause on new applications.

Pennsylvania Capital-Star is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Pennsylvania Capital-Star maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor John Micek for questions: info@penncapital-star.com. Follow Pennsylvania Capital-Star on Facebook and Twitter.

Cassie Miller is Associate Editor at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star, where this story first appeared.