NOTE: In Feb 2014, the PUC proposed changes to the State’s Alternative Energy Portfolio Standard, Interconnection, and Net-metering rules. The documents associated with the case can be accessed at Docket L-2014-2404361.
The Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission was required to adopt interconnection standards and net-metering rules by the Alternative Energy Portfolio Standards Act of 2004.The PUC subsequently adopted interconnection standards for net-metered distributed generation (DG) systems in August 2006 (52 Pa. Code § 75.21 et seq.). In July 2007, H.B.1203 required the Pennsylvania Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to develop "technical and net-metering interconnection rules for customer-generators... consistent with rules defined in other states within the service region of the regional transmission organization that manages the transmission system in any part of the [state]."
In July 2008 the PUC issued a final rulemaking order (effective November 2008) adopting new net metering regulations, but leaving the state's interconnection standards unchanged. Separately, in February 2009 the PUC issued two additional determinations affecting interconnection. One action adopted a "Policy Statement" defining application fees for different levels of interconnection review (52 Pa. Code § 69.2101 et seq.), a subject that had been left unaddressed in the existing rules. The other issued an opinion and order adopting a set of standardized interconnection applications and agreements for use by electric distribution utilities.
Pennsylvania's standards include provisions for four levels of interconnection for generators up to five megawatts (MW)* in capacity:
- Level 1 interconnection applies to certified, inverter-based systems up to 10 kilowatts (kW) in capacity. Application fee of $100.
- Level 2 interconnection applies to certified, inverter-based systems up to 5 MW in capacity that do not qualify or were not approved for Level 1 interconnection. Application fee of $250 plus $1.00/kilowatt (kW) of nameplate capacity.
- Level 3 interconnection applies to systems up to 5 MW in capacity that do not qualify or were not approved for Level 1 or Level 2 interconnection. Application fee of $350 plus $2.00/kilowatt (kW) of nameplate capacity.
- Level 4 interconnection applies to systems that do not qualify or were not approved for Level 1, Level 2 or Level 3 interconnection, and that do not export power to the grid. Application fee of $350 plus $2.00/kilowatt (kW) of nameplate capacity.
The IEEE 1547 and UL 1741 technical standards are used in evaluating interconnection requests under all levels of review. There are technical screens and specified time lines for each level of interconnection. The standards allow a single point of interconnection for a location with multiple generators. Limited interconnection to area networks is permitted. The approved application fee schedule also allows utilities to charge the customer for the cost of grid upgrades necessary to accommodate the system and costs of up to $100/hour associated with system impact, feasibility, or facility studies. Utilities are not permitted to deviate from the fee structure described above without an approval that such a deviation is appropriate from the PUC.
Customer-generators must provide an accessible external disconnect switch or access to a disconnect switch through a lock-box system. The customer-generator must pay for the disconnect switch. However, customer-generators are not required to carry liability insurance. The program web site contains draft, standardized forms for Level 1 applications and Level 2, 3 and 4 applications. Actual interconnection forms can be found on the applicable utility web site.
Utilities must designate a contact person from whom customer-generators may obtain relevant information regarding a project. A list of these contacts is available on PUC web site. Disputes may be resolved through complaint procedures available through the PUC, or through an alternative process approved by the commission.