Renewable Generation Stuck in Gridlock

Jamie Wilkie
Courtesy of Wikipedia

The green electricity sector has been firing on all cylinders in recent years. Renewable investments have been growing at record levels – capacity additions over the next 5 years expected to be greater than those added over the previous 20 years.

The problem: Planning and finding money to build projects is one thing, getting approval to connect to already strained electricity grids is a whole different process, now often taking four years or more to complete.

  • At the end of 2021, there were more than 8,100 projects waiting on interconnection approval (approval to tie in to the power grid), up from 5,600 projects just one year earlier.

As a result, only one in five solar and wind project proposals make it through the interconnection que and get built. 

An example: The PJM Interconnection – the largest regional power grid in the United States – has placed a freeze on new interconnection applications until 2026 to try to work through the backlog of projects.

What’s the hold up?

Interconnection approvals are critical work that cannot be rushed. Before a new project can be tied in, regulators need to ensure that it won’t cause disruption to existing operations and that transmission availability is sufficient.

Zoom out: Policy and technology advancements are leading to a boom in renewables investment and hopefully the regulatory process and the grid can find a way to catch up.