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FERC approves ISO-NE queue clustering

FERC last week approved ISO-NE’s proposal to cluster interconnection requests to relieve a backlog in the queue for northern and western Maine.

The revisions, effective Nov. 1, will allow the RTO to consider interconnection requests and allocated network upgrade costs in groups rather than individually.

The commission’s Oct. 31 order said that the changes “increase efficiencies, better inform the decisions of project developers and allow project developers to share the costs of the upgrades necessary to accommodate their interconnection” (ER17-2421). (See ISO-NE Files Cluster Study Rules; Window to Open in Nov.)

The RTO will use its new clustering procedure in addition to its “first-ready, first-served” serial interconnection request system. “When specific conditions are present in the ISO’s interconnection queue, the proposed methodology would allow two or more interconnection requests to be analyzed in the same system impact study and for developers to share costs for certain interconnection-related transmission upgrades,” ISO-NE said.

Together with the New England Power Pool’s Participants Committee and the Participating Transmission Owners Administrative Committee, the grid operator proposed implementing the clustering methodology first to address the queue backlog in Maine, where more than 5,800 MW of proposed resources, mostly wind, want to connect to the grid.

Long-Term Benefits

The commission rejected protests by RENEW Northeast, American Wind Energy Association, EDP Renewables and King Pine Wind, who argued it would be unjust and unreasonable to allow the clustering revisions to take effect before Massachusetts issues the results of its 2016 request for proposals. Owners of generation projects in northern and western Maine were among the respondents.

“Given the overall expected long-term benefits of the [revisions], we find that, on balance, it would be inappropriate to wholly reject the revisions to accommodate a subset of interconnection customers in the near term,” FERC said.

RENEW asserted that solicitations like Massachusetts’ determine which renewable generation projects are viable for interconnection construction and, thus, which projects execute power purchase agreements that include recovery of network upgrade costs. EDP said that ISO-NE could avoid such timing issues by aligning the implementation of the clustering with the timing of the Massachusetts RFP process.

NEPOOL responded that RENEW provided an alternative proposal in the stakeholder process to synchronize the interconnection cluster study process with the state’s energy procurement process, but only 40% of Participants Committee stakeholders favored the proposal.

The commission denied protesters’ request to delay implementation of the clustering revisions until 30 days after the results of the Massachusetts RFP are released. FERC also rejected protests that the misalignment between the cluster study process and state procurement processes would cause the first cluster to collapse because interconnection customers not selected for the RFP will withdraw from it. FERC noted that the RTO’s new rules “allow for full refund of the cluster participation deposit in such instances.”

The commission also was not persuaded by arguments that moving an interconnection customer that does not agree to join the cluster to the bottom of the queue is unjust and unreasonable.

“The clustering revisions appropriately aim to ensure that only those interconnection customers that are ready to move forward in the interconnection process participate in phase two of the cluster studies, [which] is consistent with the ‘first-ready, first-served’ approach that the commission discussed as a possible queue reform measure in RTO/ISOs as early as 2008,” the commission said.