This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

August 07, 2002

Government and Private Organizations Promote Grid Interconnection

The National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) released a report in late July that includes model procedures and agreements for grid interconnection that could be adopted by each state. Connecting to the electrical grid is often an insurmountable hurdle for homeowners and business owners that wish to generate their own power. Such onsite power generation, using so-called "distributed generation" sources—including solar power, small wind turbines, fuel cells, microturbines, and other power technologies—has the potential to contribute significantly to U.S. energy needs while boosting the reliability and security of our power supplies.

The new NARUC report, funded by DOE, intends to catalyze the development of distributed generation policies by states. It provides a model for uniform interconnection standards that are not unduly burdensome or expensive, yet still ensure safety and system reliability. See the NARUC report (PDF 231 KB). Download Acrobat Reader.

From the utility perspective, distributed generation presents potential safety problems as well as a possible source of degraded power quality. Analyzing the possible impacts of a distributed generation source on a power system is not always straightforward, which is why the Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI) stepped in back in May with software that will help make it easy for utilities. EPRI also established a facility for testing new distributed energy technologies in June. See the May and June press releases from EPRI.

California is one of many states encouraging distributed generation. In June, the California Energy Commission (CEC) issued a "Distributed Generation Strategic Plan," which aims to make distributed generation an integral part of the California energy system. See the strategic plan and related documents on the CEC Web site.

California also offers an example of how utilities can create barriers to distributed generation: in early June, the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) decided that it needed to enhance its training for electrical workers and update its procedures for connecting solar power systems to its electrical grid. In the meantime, it padlocked any new solar power systems installed through its Solar Power Incentive Program, preventing any use of the electricity generated by the systems. The utility anticipates resolving the situation by August 14th, at which point it will arrange to reconnect the systems. See the LADWP announcement.