NewEnergyNews: ORIGINAL REPORTING: HOW UTILITIES CAN STREAMLINE ROOFTOP SOLAR INTERCONNECTION AND CUT COSTS

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Gleanings from the web and the world, condensed for convenience, illustrated for enlightenment, arranged for impact...

The challenge now: To make every day Earth Day.

YESTERDAY

THINGS-TO-THINK-ABOUT THURSDAY, December 8:

  • TTTA Thursday- The Record Of The New EPA Head
  • TTTA Thursday-The Undeveloped New Energy
  • TTTA Thursday-Walking On New Energy
  • TTTA Thursday-Electric Tractor For Emissions-Free.Farming
  • THE DAY BEFORE

  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Turning Distributed Energy From Threat To Opportunity
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Solar Policy Action Heats Up
  • ORIGINAL REPORTING: Maine’s Almost Solar Policy Breakthrough
  • THE DAY BEFORE THE DAY BEFORE

  • TODAY’S STUDY: How To Balance Competing Solar Interests
  • QUICK NEWS, December 6: Sliver Of Hope? Al Gore In Climate Change Meet With Donald Trump; The Opportunity In New Energy; Google Seizing New Energy Opportunity
  • THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • TODAY’S STUDY: A Way For New Energy To Meet Peak Demand
  • QUICK NEWS, December 5: Trial Of The Century Coming On Climate; The Wind-Solar Synergy; The Still Rising Sales Of Cars With Plugs
  • AND THE DAY BEFORE THAT

  • Weekend Video: Trump Truth And Climate Change
  • Weekend Video: The Daily Show Talks Pipeline Politics
  • Weekend Video: Beyond Polar Bears – The Real Science Of Climate Change
  • THE LAST DAY UP HERE

  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-Aussie Farmers Worrying About Climate Change
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-The Climate Change Solution At Hand, Part 1
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-The Climate Change Solution At Hand, Part 2
  • FRIDAY WORLD HEADLINE-New Energy And Historic Buildings In Europe
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    Anne B. Butterfield of Daily Camera and Huffington Post, f is an occasional contributor to NewEnergyNews

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    Some of Anne's contributions:

  • Another Tipping Point: US Coal Supply Decline So Real Even West Virginia Concurs (REPORT), November 26, 2013
  • SOLAR FOR ME BUT NOT FOR THEE ~ Xcel's Push to Undermine Rooftop Solar, September 20, 2013
  • NEW BILLS AND NEW BIRDS in Colorado's recent session, May 20, 2013
  • Lies, damned lies and politicians (October 8, 2012)
  • Colorado's Elegant Solution to Fracking (April 23, 2012)
  • Shale Gas: From Geologic Bubble to Economic Bubble (March 15, 2012)
  • Taken for granted no more (February 5, 2012)
  • The Republican clown car circus (January 6, 2012)
  • Twenty-Somethings of Colorado With Skin in the Game (November 22, 2011)
  • Occupy, Xcel, and the Mother of All Cliffs (October 31, 2011)
  • Boulder Can Own Its Power With Distributed Generation (June 7, 2011)
  • The Plunging Cost of Renewables and Boulder's Energy Future (April 19, 2011)
  • Paddling Down the River Denial (January 12, 2011)
  • The Fox (News) That Jumped the Shark (December 16, 2010)
  • Click here for an archive of Butterfield columns

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    Some details about NewEnergyNews and the man behind the curtain: Herman K. Trabish, Agua Dulce, CA., Doctor with my hands, Writer with my head, Student of New Energy and Human Experience with my heart

    email: herman@NewEnergyNews.net

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      A tip of the NewEnergyNews cap to Phillip Garcia for crucial assistance in the design implementation of this site. Thanks, Phillip.

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    Pay a visit to the HARRY BOYKOFF page at Basketball Reference, sponsored by NewEnergyNews and Oil In Their Blood.

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  • WEEKEND VIDEOS, December 10-11:

  • A Climate Change Denier’s Lies Exposed
  • The Good News Numbers On The EV Boom
  • “This Is Just The Beginning”

    Tuesday, December 30, 2014

    ORIGINAL REPORTING: HOW UTILITIES CAN STREAMLINE ROOFTOP SOLAR INTERCONNECTION AND CUT COSTS

    How utilities can streamline rooftop solar interconnection and cut costs; Online interconnection turns NV Energy customer complaints into customer service

    Herman K. Trabish, October 16, 2014 (Utility Dive)

    No long ago, the interconnection of rooftop solar was mostly handled at utilities by distribution system engineers and staff.

    Not anymore. By the end of 2013, over 475,000 U.S. solar installations were interconnected. And a million are expected by the end of 2017.

    To drive growth, the U.S. Department of Energy wants to bring the installed cost of solar down to $1 per watt. That initiative is expected to drive permitting, inspection and interconnection (PII) soft costs from 2013’s $0.17 per watt to $0.14 per watt by 2020, according to Distributed Solar Interconnection Challenges and Best Practices, a recent report from the Solar Electric Power Association (SEPA).

    SEPA’s survey “uncovered utility initiatives to lower the administrative costs of distributed generation interconnection, making the process of connecting to the grid simpler and more transparent for customers.” But it also revealed that “only 17 percent of utilities are able to process applications online.”

    “What was five or ten interconnections a month is now 50, 60, 100, or—for some utilities—1,000 per month,” explained SEPA Research Director Mike Taylor. “Utilities are starting to grapple with the fact that this may take dedicated resources.”

    “What struck me the most was that 63 percent of utilities are already planning improvements and pro-actively streamlining their processes,” noted survey co-author and SEPA Sr. Researcher Becky Campbell.

    Some 86 percent of utilities are only seeing two interconnection applications per day and often not seeing business activity impacts, she said. “But big utilities in states with active solar markets may be seeing 1,000 applications per year, which is 40 per day,” she said. “They are realizing it makes sense from a business perspective to streamline these processes, not just to accommodate the customer, but also to manage their time and costs more effectively.”

    Time is money: Interconnection's high cost

    Even where smart meters contribute to streamlined processing, the survey found, customers often still require direct one-on-one communications, adding significant time and cost on both sides of the interconnection process.

    From application submittal to utility approval now takes an average of four weeks, just as it did in 2008, SEPA found. But utilities with online processes only require an average of two weeks

    Of the two-applications-per-day utilities, 41 percent process them in an average of two weeks. Only 15 percent of utilities with larger volumes manage that two week turnaround.

    Three-quarters of the interconnection applications are being handled by less than 5 percent of utilities. That is likely why only 15 percent have “optimized processing high numbers of interconnections in short periods of time,” SEPA found.

    Others are still trying to figure out how to respond and there is a range of attitudes, Taylor said. “Utilities are like people. You get all kinds.”

    Many are only now seeing a post-recession return of sales and revenues, Taylor added. “They were in cost-cutting and outsourcing mode just as solar was growing really fast.

    They were cutting resources just as they were seeing this new customer service need. Maybe now they’re coming out of that, taking a second look, and seeing how they can save their customers and themselves money and time.”

    An online solution

    The SEPA survey was performed as part of a U.S. Department of Energy SunShot Initiative award that also funded the development of a new online platform for interconnection application processing by Clean Power Research (CPR) PowerClerk Interconnection (PC-Interconnect) was developed by CPR out of its widely used PowerClerk Incentives (PC-Incent) online tool. PC-Incent was developed eight years ago for the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (NYSERDA). It automated the processing of applications for state incentives. It has been used by 22 utilities and agencies to process over 280,000 applications representing more than 6 gigawatts of renewables capacity.

    Now, utility incentive funds are being expended, but customers continue to apply for interconnection. For most solar owners, grid interconnection is crucial to the solar value proposition.

    Slow interconnection application processing provokes complaints from utility customers and the installers and contractors representing them. The biggest complaint is a lack of application status transparency. Online platforms address this with a real time status check capability.

    As a result, NV Energy—which was the SunShot award designated utility partner and the first to test PC-Interconnect—went from taking 2.7 days from application receipt to a sent reservation notice to taking 1.8 days, said Renewable Generation Operations Manager Jeff Healon.

    Other common pain points in solar interconnection application processing solved with PC-Interconnect, according to Healon, include:

    -Incomplete or inaccurate applications, outdated forms, incorrectly filled out forms, and missing forms

    -An increasing volume of phone assistance inquiries

    -Waiting for signed forms to be delivered by snail mail

    Addressing the pain points

    Online platforms like PC-Interconnect and those being developed by utilities in-house reduce snail mail and address pain points promptly. Advantages include:

    -Forms are standardized and utility administrators can keep them updated. Automated algorithms minimize incomplete and inaccurate information.

    -Inaccuracies can be eliminated by comparing submitted information with smart meter data or information from other databases. Corrections can be made instantly via email.

    -Accurate online data makes answering phone inquiries quicker and more precise.

    -E-signature technology allows documents to be signed securely in real time.

    As utility and state incentive programs draw to a close, public agencies no longer process applications. Detailed information about the incentivized distributed generation important to utilities and the solar market is being lost.

    CPR’s PC-Interconnect allows utilities to ask for that PV system information on interconnection applications. In utilities’ databases, that information can be market or operations intelligence or be used in ways that make utilities’ distributions systems safer and customer services better.

    “Customer service has been a boon for us,” Healon said. “We can deal with large installers and with growing numbers of customers across the state and do it faster and give them better information.”

    The July/August 2014 SEPA survey of 400 utilities asked about annual interconnection application volume, processing times, submission methods, and strengths and challenges in the process. Some 16 percent of utilities, across 25 states and a range of ownership types, responded.

    The findings establish that taking interconnection online cuts time and solar soft costs while improving the experience for utility customers, solar customers, and the solar industry. It also establishes that most utilities have a long way to go to get there.

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