Largest US grid operator puts 1,200 mostly solar projects on hold for 2 years
LOUISVILLE, Ky. — The nation’s largest electrical grid operator has approved a new process for adding power plants to the sprawling transmission system it manages, including a two-year pause on reviewing and potentially approving some 1,200 projects, mostly solar power, that are part of a controversial backlog.
PJM Interconnection operates a competitive market for wholesale electricity in all or part of 13 states and the District of Columbia, from Virginia to northern Illinois.
Its plan is the result of work over the past year by PJM and what it calls its stakeholders, according to a press release from PJM. They include electric utilities, electric transmission owners, state and consumer interests, and solar and wind developers.
“These changes represent a landmark accomplishment for PJM stakeholders and staff that establishes a better process to handle the unprecedented influx of generation interconnection requests and is critical to clearing the backlog of projects,” said PJM President and CEO Manu Asthana.
PJM remains committed to a strategy of “decarbonization policies while preserving reliability and cost-effectiveness,” Asthana.
But the backlog, and a two-year pause on so many projects with the potential for even longer delays on new proposals, has frustrated renewable energy developers.
In January, an outspoken Adam Edelen, a former Kentucky state auditor who runs a company working to bring solar projects and jobs to ailing coal communities in Appalachia, said he was concerned that “the kink in the system” was helping to delay effective climate policy in the United States.
“The planet does not have time for a delay,” he said at the time.
Approval delays were putting solar developers in a financial bind and calling into question the Biden administration’s goal of having a carbon-free electricity grid in just 13 years, he cautioned.
Edelen late Thursday afternoon said he was still reviewing PJM’s announcement, which went out on Thursday.
“The current situation is preventing clean energy projects from coming online and is unsustainable,” said Kat Burnham, a principal of Advanced Energy Economy, a trade group for clean energy businesses that has expressed frustration with the situation.