Corporate Actions Playbook
The following represents an initial release of the ZEROgrid Playbook, a living document that will be expanded and revised over time to reflect new insights.
Grid-Enhancing Technologies Guidance
Implementation Guide — Support Deployment of Grid-Enhancing Technologies (GETs)
Context: What is this action and why is it important?
The slow pace of interconnection (the process by which grid operators study new generation projects to determine their impact on the grid) has become a major bottleneck in the clean energy transition. Lawrence Berkeley National Lab (LBNL) estimates that the amount of new zero-carbon generation capacity active in interconnection queues –– 1250 GW and counting, as of Q4 2022 –– exceeds the capacity of the current US electricity system. LBNL also finds that timelines for connecting to the grid have doubled since the early 2000s and are continuing to experience delays. At the same time, the costs to connect new generation assets are rising, as the lack of available transmission capacity is leading to higher and higher network upgrade costs that generators must pay in order to interconnect.
Grid-enhancing technologies (GETs) have the potential to help projects interconnect to the grid more quickly and cheaply. GETs are hardware and software tools that increase the capacity, efficiency, and adaptability of the transmission system. They perform functions such as rerouting power flows to avoid congested lines and providing data on real-time conditions that could enable more power to flow through a line at given times — thus increasing our ability to utilize the transmission infrastructure we already have.
A 2021 Brattle study found that GETs deployment could roughly double renewable energy integration in Kansas and Oklahoma. GETs alone cannot replace the major transmission upgrades that will be necessary to decarbonize the US electric grid, but they can provide a complementary, near-term tool to help mitigate critical transmission constraints.
Challenges: What obstacles should companies expect to encounter?
Today, GET deployment in the United States is relatively low, and is primarily impaired by a lack of familiarity and proper incentives among transmission owners:
- Risk Aversion: GETs are relatively recent innovations — and transmission owners tend to be cautious about changing how their system operates due to their mandate to ensure reliable operations.
- Financial Disincentives: Since GETs tend to be cheap and offer operational efficiencies, certain utility regulatory structures act to disincentivize their deployment, absent careful oversight.
While regulators are starting to encourage the use of GETs, these initial steps are unlikely to fully address these challenges. In particular, FERC Order 2023 requires transmission providers to evaluate a set of alternative transmission technologies, including some GETs, in the interconnection study process for feasibility of deployment as well as cost and time savings relative to traditional network upgrades. But a requirement to consider these technologies doesn’t guarantee that grid operators and transmission owners will implement GETs even if they offer cost-effective and practical solutions.
Solutions: What should companies do to be effective? Who else needs to take action?
- Companies can work with clean energy developers as part of the procurement process to explore the applicability of GETs for their projects. This could include helping developers make the case to utilities and/or grid operators that GETs should be properly evaluated in interconnection studies and deployed when they make sense.
- Companies can fund, support, or amplify studies or pilots of GETs with an aim towards accelerating their uptake by utilities and RTOs.
- Companies can work with utilities to explore whether GETs could be applied as part of the load interconnection process for their new facilities.
- Companies can, individually or collectively, provide upfront capital investment support to companies deploying GETs technologies.
Companies can engage in several policy pathways to express their support for policies or regulatory changes that would better incentivize GET deployment.
- State pathways: Companies can engage with state regulators to support rulemaking processes to adequately incentivize the use of GETs by their jurisdictional utilities. Depending on the region, companies may also be able to work with states to engage in RTO processes to voice support for GET deployment.
- RTO pathways: Companies can alternatively seek to engage directly with RTOs to encourage evaluation of GETs as an alternative to traditional network upgrades in interconnection studies and in transmission planning processes. Tactical steps that could support this effort might include enhancing GETs modeling capabilities, sharing analysis tools with transmission providers, or direct participation in stakeholder meetings and related processes.
- Federal pathways: Companies could also engage with key federal actors, including FERC and Congress. FERC has already issued Order 2023 to encourage GET deployment and is considering another order that could further integrate GETs into routine transmission planning processes that grid operators and utilities must conduct. Meanwhile, congressional leaders could introduce legislation that supports a consistent approach to evaluating or incentivizing the benefits of GETs.
Resources: What existing case studies can serve as success stories and provide further insights?