New rules simplify process for connecting small energy systems to the power grid
OLYMPIA, Wash. – In an effort to facilitate renewable energy generation, state regulators today simplified rules for homeowners connecting rooftop solar and other distributed electric generation systems to the power grid.
The Utilities and Transportation Commission (UTC) amended its rules to streamline the process for connecting distributed generation, such as rooftop solar panels and small wind generators, with the electrical system. The rules shorten the application process and remove unnecessary requirements that have added costs to distributed generation facilities.
“By streamlining these rules we are advancing Washington’s policies that encourage renewable energy, including distributed generation,” said UTC Chairman David Danner. “This is one more step to help Washington’s citizens and businesses participate in our state’s efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.”
Under the new application process, most small facilities with a generating capacity of 25 kilowatts (kW) or less will be reviewed within 35 days using a standardized form. For projects of 26 to 500 kW, utilities will review applications within 45 days.
The commission also clarified that under the state law a third party may finance and own a generating facility located on another’s property. This will allow homeowners to install rooftop solar systems without making large down payments or losing their eligibility to participate in utility net metering programs, which direct electric utilities to provide a bill credit for certain types of power produced on a customer’s property.
The commission also removed unnecessary insurance requirements from facilities with a generating capacity of 100 kW or less.
At the request of the Washington State House Technology, Energy and Communications Committee, the UTC in 2011 conducted a study and offered recommendations for changes in the rules to encourage development of distributed generation in areas served by electric companies. Following these recommendations, the commission held workshops and formed a workgroup of technical representatives to recommend changes to the rule. This final rule adoption represents the culmination of an extensive stakeholder development process.
The UTC regulates the rates and services of telecommunications companies, investor-owned electric utilities, natural gas and water companies, garbage-collection haulers, household-goods movers and charter-bus companies, commercial ferries, pipeline companies, and a low-level radioactive waste repository.