Often at odds, utilities and DER developers have joined together with the launch of the GridTECH Connect Forum in San Diego on Feb. 6.
By John Engel, Content Director, GridTECH Connect Forum
It’s no secret: the relationship between utilities and distributed energy developers isn’t in very great shape.
The strain is most obvious during the interconnection process. Developers decry the slow and expensive steps to tie a new project to the grid, while utilities warn of the impacts to reliability caused by a rapidly changing system.
Rarely do the two sides — both crucial to executing the energy transition — engage in a positive way. Until now.
The GridTECH Connect Forum launches in San Diego on Feb. 6 to break down the energy industry’s silos. The inaugural regional event will focus exclusively on the issues facing the California market, like interconnection collaboration, demand response, EV charging infrastructure, and more.
Registration is now open but is limited. Secure your seat today.
For the first time, investor-owned utilities, electricity co-operatives, municipal utilities, community choice aggregators, developers, and regulators are addressing their shared challenges in a meaningful way.
“At SDG&E, we believe that our toughest challenges can be solved best through collaboration,” said Laurence Abcede, SDG&E’s manager of distributed resources and a member of the GridTECH Connect Forum advisory board.
“We appreciate the opportunity to learn from our peers and engage in thoughtful dialog on how we can together move our industry to clean energy resources— all while keeping reliability and safety top of mind.”
Meaningful change requires all of the key stakeholders are involved.
That’s why senior leaders from SDG&E, PG&E, Southern California Edison, and the California Public Utilities Commission have partnered with some of the top DER developers in the region to support the GridTECH Connect Forum.
Learn more about the advisory board here.
Finding win-win opportunities
The DER interconnection process is often expensive and time-consuming for both utilities and developers. Duplicative equipment and services can delay interconnection by weeks or months without adding material value to the project.
Often on the outside looking in, developers have unique access to supply chains and procurement pipelines unavailable to distribution utilities.
The GridTECH Connect Forum will explore win-win opportunities for utilities and developers to collaborate on DER interconnection.
“Everybody wants to move towards this sustainable, renewable energy future,” said Standard Solar VP of engineering C.J. Colavito, who will moderate the panel discussion. “And we have to figure out better ways to interconnect and integrate.”
The panel will analyze how utilities and developers can go beyond existing standalone network upgrade rules to collaborate on interconnection infrastructure needs, like construction and procurement.
It will also lean on the experiences of National Grid and Nexamp which are participating in a self-build pilot program in Massachusetts.
“Interconnection should be a way to solve problems before they happen, and an opportunity for utilities and developers to collaborate toward achieving common goals,” said Ben Piiru, Nexamp’s director of grid integration.
If not now, when?
The timing of the GridTECH Connect Forum couldn’t be more urgent.
California narrowly emerged for another summer heatwave that threatened the grid. And a mandate to switch from gas-powered vehicles to electric is fast approaching, presenting its own set of challenges.
Acknowledging that the interconnection process is slow and expensive, the U.S. Dept. of Energy launched the Interconnection Innovation e-Xchange (i2X) program to enable faster, simpler, and fairer interconnection of clean energy sources.
Becca Jones-Albertus, director of the Solar Energy Technologies Office at the DOE, will deliver the keynote address at the GridTECH Connect Forum in San Diego to highlight the role of the i2x program and the need for collaboration between developers and utilities.
“In order to meet the Biden-Harris administration’s goal of a decarbonized electricity system by 2035, we need to deploy more clean energy to the grid as quickly and reliably as possible. However, current procedures for connecting to the grid are not equipped to handle the rapid increase in clean energy projects needed to meet our climate goals,” Jones-Albertus said.
“We cannot solve interconnections challenges without stakeholder collaboration, which is why, like GridTECH, i2X joins together groups who are essential in expediting the interconnection process to share data, develop a roadmap, and facilitate new solutions to improve interconnection procedures with the support of DOE.”
The GridTECH Connect Forum in San Diego will feature a panel session on DER hosting capacity and impact analysis, as well as a technical “interconnection boot camp” for attendees, both led by the DOE.
Additional sessions will address interconnection collaboration, fleet electrification, demand response, vehicle-to-grid integration, and more.
Register today and join us at the inaugural GridTECH Connect Forum in San Diego, California on February 6, 2023.
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