The California Independent System Operator on Thursday asked federal regulators for permission to cancel its annual interconnection study process for any interconnection requests submitted this year so it can deal with a “tsunami” of existing interconnection requests.
“This will allow the CAISO, transmission owners, and developers to focus on completing existing interconnection requests before adding even more,” the grid operator said in a filing with the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.
CAISO’s rules call for it to open an interconnection cluster study on April 1 for new generator interconnection requests. However, its last two cluster studies have been delayed because of their size, according to the grid operator.
In CAISO’s 2021 study process, known as the cluster 14 “supercluster,” the grid operator received 373 interconnection requests, up 141% from the year before. Due to the high levels of clean energy procurement in California and the financial strength in the industry, less than 40% of cluster 14 interconnection customers withdrew from the interconnection queue after its initial study phase compared to an average 60% dropout rate, CAISO told FERC.
Although CAISO changed its interconnection rules before cluster 15 to reduce its size, after a delay to the process the grid operator received 541 interconnection requests last year representing 350 GW in new capacity, nearly seven times CAISO’s peak demand.
“Cluster 15’s extreme volume represents the low bar to submit an interconnection request and the high level of financial opportunity in generation development,” CAISO said. “Developers submitted these interconnection requests understanding they would face an extended study process and longer construction timelines.”
Developers also submitted multiple interconnection requests knowing CAISO would likely not open another interconnection request window this year, the grid operator said.
CAISO said it expects it will finish the cluster 14 interconnection studies this spring and start the cluster 15 interconnection studies in the fall. Before starting cluster 15, CAISO plans to make several changes to address the size of the cluster and comply with FERC Order 2023 on grid interconnection.
No developer, transmission owner or other stakeholder opposed CAISO’s proposal to cancel this year’s interconnection study process, according to the grid operator.