Advancing Surer, Safer DER Interconnections

Dec. 10, 2020
Adoption of solar, wind, battery, CHP, and other DERs for both commercial and residential consumers is growing globally. But progress varies considerably from region to region.

Adoption of solar, wind, battery, combined heat and power (CHP), and other distributed energy resources (DERs) for both commercial and residential consumers is growing globally. But progress varies considerably from region to region.

Some areas are just getting started with adoption of DERs. Some are aggressively ramping up requirements to accelerate changeover to renewables and other DERs toward the goal of reducing carbon footprint—and rolling out hefty penalties for non-compliance. Some are amid regulatory changes (around leasing and net-metering requirements, for example) to accommodate increased reliance. Some are incentivizing buildout of small-scale commercial and residential DER systems. And in some areas, neighborhood-based, virtual power plants of interconnected DERs, and highly resilient, DER-based microgrid configurations are being introduced.

For progress to continue unabated, both traditional and emerging barriers to DER adoption must be addressed from every angle. Commissioning interconnections, for example, has been revealed as one key problem area for the global power community. There is a glaring lack of appropriate workforce to commission DER interconnections, and this is a troublesome issue both in developing economies and in areas where substantially more DER sites are being relied on for grid support. DER interconnections in areas such as these sometimes are approved based only on review of an application, with no on-site inspection taking place. Plus, misunderstandings and miscommunication around requirements among utilities, DER developers, and owners can lead to significant complexities and costs for all stakeholders.

A new certification program under development by IEEE and several utility partners targets this gap. Proper, uniform assessment of installed DER interconnections—residential, utility-scale, and microgrid alike—by qualified and credentialed professionals is crucial to cost-effectively and rapidly achieving the world’s goals of a safer, more reliable, and environmentally friendly electricity grid.

Benefiting Stakeholders Across the DER Interconnection Process 

The pressures on stakeholders across the DER landscape are mounting. DER vendors are being pushed to implement new features and capabilities that can be adaptable across the dynamic national DER landscape. Utilities must process and judge more applications for interconnecting DERs and must understand and evaluate more technology innovations. Regulators must evaluate their jurisdictions’ interconnection rules, re-align them to keep pace with changes in the industry, and specify how DER interconnections are to be monitored.

The IEEE 1547 Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Interconnection: Education and Credentialing Program is in development to alleviate burden across all of these entities and better position them for the future of grid support.

IEEE, the world's largest technical professional organization dedicated to advancing technology for humanity, is collaborating with multiple utilities on the project. Baltimore Gas and Electric Company (BGE), Commonwealth Edison (ComEd), Dominion Energy, Duke Energy and Orange, and Rockland Utilities (O&R) are helping fund, develop, and promote the program, rooted in IEEE 1547™, IEEE Standard for Interconnection and Interoperability of Distributed Energy Resources with Associated Electric Power Systems Interfaces. The program also leverages the recently revised IEEE 1547.1™-2020, IEEE Standard Conformance Test Procedures for Equipment Interconnecting Distributed Energy Resources with Electric Power Systems and Associated Interfaces.

IEEE 1547 provides technical specifications for the interconnection and interoperability between utility electric power systems and DERs of any type and size. The standard both covers general requirements and delves into topics such as response to abnormal conditions, power quality, islanding, and test specifications and requirements for design, production, installation evaluation, commissioning, and periodic testing. Since its introduction in 2003, IEEE 1547 has been referenced in legislation, regulatory deliberations, and utility engineering and business practices worldwide. The U.S. Energy Policy Act of 2005, for example, cites IEEE 1547.

Over the years since its initial publication, the standard has been revised to address new market challenges that have arisen in DER deployment. The most recent, 2018 version of IEEE 1547 included several changes related to global growth of DER grid interconnections. The U.S. National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) in 2020 unanimously approved a resolution recommending that state public utility commissions (PUCs) and its other member regulatory agencies adopt IEEE 1547-2018.

When launched, the new credentialing program is intended to deliver documentation for a standardized IEEE 1547 commissioning process, as well as other educational content around the requirements and assessment of DER interconnection. This is important for cutting costs and complexity around interconnections, as a streamlined, more straightforward, and standards‐based process could help clarify understanding among utilities, developers, and owners. Also, especially in regions where IEEE 1547 is formally referenced, regulators could use the new program as a tool for ensuring adherence to rules or best practices around interconnections.

Furthermore, the program is being designed to enable identification, training, and certification for individuals in commissioning of installed DER interconnections of any size. In this way, it is intended to help address the world’s shortage of DER expertise—such as in developing economies. Ghana, for example, is one of the countries that have looked at how to better leverage IEEE 1547 in relation to DER adoption, to advance their national energy goals.

Collaborating in Creation of the Program

With DERs figuring more prominently in the global energy landscape every day, the close IEEE collaboration with utilities and other stakeholders in the global power industry is needed in order to fuel surer, safer interconnections around the world.

Utilities and other industry stakeholders who seek to contribute to the program are invited to visit the IEEE 1547 Distributed Energy Resources (DER) Interconnection: Education and Credentialing Program or reach out to [email protected] to learn more and engage. In addition, the IEEE 1547 standard is available at the IEEE Standards Store