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50% of renewables needed for decarbonization is in interconnection queues

image credit: Image from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory report Queued Up: Characteristics of Power Plants Seeking Transmission Interconnection As of the End of 2020, Slide 11
Julia Selker's picture
Policy and Business Manager Grid Strategies

Julia Selker is a Policy and Business Manager with Grid Strategies. In this role she coordinates the Future Power Markets Forum and supports communications for the Business Council for...

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  • May 25, 2021 3:27 pm GMT
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I hope that you’ve seen the new LBNL “Queued Up: Characteristics of Power Plants Seeking Transmission Interconnection As of the End of 2020” report. The topline finding is incredible: more than half (671 GW) of the estimated 1,100 GW of wind and solar capacity needed to approach a zero-carbon electricity target is in interconnection queues.

 

Based on historical data, more than 80% of these renewables projects won’t get built - and some are only there so that the developers keep their options open. But, those that make it through will wait years, even though most have a target online-date by 2023.

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The WATT Coalition studied how transmission capacity increases from Grid-Enhancing Technologies (GETs) could allow more renewables to plug in, faster. Looking only at projects with signed interconnection agreements (13% of the total queue, per LBNL), the Brattle Group calculated that twice as many gigawatts would come online within five years if GETs were installed.

 

Dynamic line ratings, advanced power flow control, and advanced topology control are taking off in other countries, but in the U.S. they are held back by a lack of incentives for grid optimization. To learn more about efforts to bring GETs into the mainstream in the States, check out two upcoming events: 

 

Also, the House Select Committee on Climate Change hearing last week on Powering Up Clean Energy: Investments to Modernize and Expand the Electric Grid featured comments on GETs – Michael Skelly opened his remarks with a call for Congress to act (see the first two minutes of his remarks).

 

Here are the top findings from the LBNL report:

  • More than half (671 GW) of the estimated 1,100 GW of wind and solar capacity needed to approach a zero-carbon electricity target is already in development.
  • For five ISOs where data were available, only 19% of wind and 16% of solar projects in the queues reached commercial operations.
  • For four ISOs where data were available, the time projects spent in queues before being built increased from ~1.9 years for projects built in 2000-2009 up to ~3.5 years for those built in 2010-2020.
  • 71% (653 GW) of total capacity in queues has expected online date by end of 2023; 13% (117 GW) has an executed interconnection agreement (IA).
  • The median project with an executed IA (but not yet built) has spent 1,387 days in the queues, over 2.5 years more than the median project without an IA (469 days).
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Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on May 25, 2021

Based on historical data, more than 80% of these renewables projects won’t get built - and some are only there so that the developers keep their options open

Is this a trend just in renewable projects, or is it common across the energy landscape? 

Julia Selker's picture
Julia Selker on May 25, 2021

The report says that (for the 5 ISOs with data) ~24% of projects in the queues reached commercial operations. Completion rates for wind (19%) and solar (16%) bring that percentage down, so other resources are more likely to be built.

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