Interconnection for Net-Metered Systems
Customer-generators that net meter must comply with the interconnection rules within the regulations governing net metering (20 VAC 5-315-40). These rules apply to residential customers generating up to 10 kW* and commercial systems of up to 500 kW (or greater if the utility's net metering tariff specifies a higher capacity limit for commercial systems). Utilities that have already enrolled 1% of their peak load for the previous year are not required to allow additional customers to net meter.
Customer-generators with systems that meet the major national safety and equipment standards [National Electrical Code (NEC), Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE) Standard 1547 (July 2003), and Underwriters Laboratories (UL)] are not required to install any additional safety equipment. However, a utility’s net metering tariff may require that customer-generators install a manual, external disconnect switch that complies with national safety requirements and is certified by a licensed electrician.
Customer-generators must notify the electric distribution company and the energy service provider prior to interconnecting; the minimum advance-notice requirement depends on system size. Customer-generators may be required to pay up to $50 for an inverter inspection for inverter-based systems. In addition, customer-generators with systems greater than 25 kW in capacity must reimburse the utility for its cost to modify any facilities needed to accommodate the interconnection with respect to power quality, voltage regulation and transformer loading.
Customer-generators with interconnected systems that do not exceed 10 kW in rated capacity must have at least $100,000 in liability insurance. Customer-generators with systems greater than 10 kW must have at least $300,000 in coverage.
*In March 2011, Virginia enacted HB 1983, which increases the residential limit net metering limit to 20 kW. Residential facilities with a capacity of more than 10 kW will be required to pay a monthly standby charge.These changes took effect July 1, 2011. The Virginia State Corporation Commission approved standby charges for transmissions and distribution components as proposed by Virginia Electric and Power Company (Dominion Virginia Power) on November 3, 2011. More information on Dominion's approved charges can be found under Virginia-Net Metering.
Interconnection for Other Systems**
In May 2009, Virginia’s State Corporation Commission (SCC) adopted interconnection procedures for systems that are not net-metered. These rules, which took effect July 1, 2009, apply to all electric utilities -- investor-owned utilities, municipal utilities and electric cooperatives -- operating in Virginia. Prior to installation, the Interconnection Customer must insure compliance with all local, state and federal laws and regulations, including applicable permitting and easements.
The FERC Small Generator Interconnection Procedure (SGIP) rules provide the basis for these regulations. The interconnection procedures set three tiers of review for interconnection requests for all eligible technologies and systems up to 20 MW, including those interconnecting to both the distribution grid and the transmission grid (if an interconnection is subject to state jurisdiction). The three tiers are:
- Level 1: Small generating facilities no larger than 500 kW;
- Level 2: Certified facilities no larger than 2 MW that do not qualify for the Level 1 process;
- Level 3: Facilities no larger than 20 MW not qualifying for the Level 1 or Level 2 process.
Fees for interconnection requests increase with each Level. A Level 1 request must submit $100 fee; a Level 2 request must submit $500 fee; and a Level 3 requests must submit a deposit of $1000 or 50% of the estimated cost of the feasibility study (whichever is less).
The process for each level differs as well; in general Level 1 requests require an evaluation and no additional studies. Level 2 requests require an initial review and possibly a supplemental review and/or modifications to either the small generating facility or the utility facilities. Level 3 requests may include a scoping meeting (which may be waived), a feasibility study (which may be waived), system impact study, and facilities study. Level 2 and 3 both require a signed Small Generator Interconnection Agreement before the systems may begin operation. The forms for requests and agreements are standard SCC determined forms.
The SCC specifies IEEE Standard 1547 (“Standard for Interconnecting Distributed Resources with Electrical Power Systems”) as the technical standard of evaluation. Systems are considered to be lab-certified if the components have been evaluated as compliant with UL 1741 and the National Electric Code (NEC).
Interconnection requests that include multiple energy production devices located on one site with a single point of interconnection will be evaluated on the aggregate capacity of all systems. Interconnection request for systems wishing to increase capacity shall be evaluated on total new capacity.
Regardless of the size or tier in which the facility is evaluated, it is the utility's discretion whether or not an external disconnect switch is required.
Depending on the size of the small generator facility, insurance requirements differ. Facilities with rated capacity 10 kW or less must carry liability insurance of at least $100,000 per occurrence. Facilities with rated capacity exceeding 10 kW but less than or equal to 500 kW must carry liability insurance with coverage of at least $300,000 for each occurrence. Facilities with rated capacity greater than 500 kW but less than or equal to 2 MW must carry liability insurance with coverage of at least $2 million per occurrence. Insurance coverage for facilities with rated capacity greater than 2 MW will be determined on a case-by-case basis, depending on the size of the installation and potential risk of system damage.
Another important aspect to the SCC Interconnection procedures for non-net metered systems is that they stipulate a dispute resolution process. After written notification of the dispute, the parties may seek assistance from the SCC's Division of Energy Regulation, where it will be handled as an informal complaint, or they may seek third-party dispute resolution in which costs are shared equally. If the prior attempts fail, parties may file a formal complaint with the SCC.
It should be noted that these regulations do not apply to net metering customers although, in practice, the process and requirements detailed for Level 1 requests mirror the interconnection process for net metered systems.
* *The definitions here cover several important classification criteria. Consult the actual rule for official definitions and additional restrictions.