Backlog hampers renewable energy projects, industry group says | Five for the Weekend

In Pennsylvania alone, “developers have more than 13 GW of solar power waiting in the queue, projects that together would create nearly 45,000 direct jobs,” according to the AEE analysis

By: - February 26, 2022 7:11 am

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Happy weekend, all. 

A recent release by Advanced Energy Economy (AEE), an association of energy-industry businesses, reported that renewable energy projects across the country – and especially in Pennsylvania, Virginia and Ohio – are getting stuck before they can even get started, costing jobs, money and business opportunities.

The AEE release argues that energy projects are getting stuck waiting – sometimes years – for approval by PJM Interconnection LLC, a Norristown-based regional electricity transmitter, that signs off on all regional energy projects needing to connect to the grid.

In Pennsylvania alone, “developers have more than 13 GW of solar power waiting in the queue, projects that together would create nearly 45,000 direct jobs,” according to the AEE analysis. 

So just how long is the wait?

AEE reports that a total of 2,274 projects have been “waiting for an interconnection agreement in the PJM interconnection queue” for a year or more. Of those, a third (758 projects) have been waiting more than 500 days, 22% (497 projects) have been stuck for more than two years, and 166 projects have been waiting more than three years. Ouch.

Since 2017, more than 1,000 clean energy projects have been withdrawn by their developers from the PJM interconnection queue due to the long wait for approval. “That includes over 77,000 MW worth of solar, wind, and battery storage projects that could have powered more than 18 million homes and created 400,000 jobs,” according to AEE.

Does this all sound familiar?

Earlier this week, yours truly reported on another renewable energy project that is having difficulty getting off the ground – albeit, for very different reasons.

So what can be done to address the backlog and get the renewable wheels moving again?

AEE offered up some possible solutions, which include:

  • Setting deadlines for necessary studies,
  • Clustering projects to be studied at the same time rather than one by one, holding entities accountable for completing work on time
  • Requiring higher non-refundable deposits to ensure projects have commercial viability,
  • Proactively planning and building the grid to overcome constraints that stymie clean energy interconnection, such as the lack of existing transmission infrastructure in resource-rich regions,
  • Fairly allocating the costs of transmission to all customers who benefit rather than just the interconnecting generator.

In an effort to address the backlog, PJM has implemented a two-year pause on new applications.

As always, the top five stories from this week are below.


1. Pa. Supreme Court court picks national Dems’ map as new congressional plan

Pennsylvania’s highest court has picked a map submitted by voters backed by a national group aligned with Democrats to be the commonwealth’s next congressional map.

In a 5-page order, the state Supreme Court ordered 4-3 that the map, known as the Carter plan, be adopted as soon as possible. An opinion was not immediately available. Four of the courts five liberal justices signed onto the order, while the other, Justice Debra Todd, joined two justices elected as Republicans in dissent.

The map was filed with the court by plaintiffs linked to the National Redistricting Action Fund, a dark money affiliate of National Democratic Redistricting Committee, while the case was argued by Democratic attorney Marc Elias.

Department of Health Acting Secretary Alison Beam speaks at a press conference. Harrisburg, PA – February 17, 2021

2. Former health secretary Beam takes lobbying job with UPMC, raising concern and hope

Pennsylvania’s former health secretary is taking a new job as the top lobbyist for the commonwealth’s biggest health system.

Alison Beam, who was a top staffer for Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf before taking over the state Health Department in January 2021, will be hired as the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center’s next vice president of government affairs, the healthcare giant announced last week.

“It is an honor to take on this role, as I have experienced first-hand UPMC’s firm commitment to serving the community and advocating for optimal health care for citizens of the state and beyond,” Beam said in a Friday statement. She left state employment last December.

Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, speaks with attendees on the Capital steps of a rally for gun rights on September 29, 2020. (Capital-Star photo by Stephen Caruso)

3. Corman asks for investigation of GOP gov rival Mastriano’s campaign finances

The top Republican in the Pennsylvania state Senate has filed a complaint against rival gubernatorial candidate and controversial Pennsylvania state Sen. Doug Mastriano, R-Franklin, for filing an incomplete campaign finance report.

Senate President Pro Tempore Jake Corman, R-Centre, sent a letter to the Franklin County District Attorney Wednesday asking for the office to look into how and why Mastriano’s campaign raised nearly three times the funds than it had previously reported in an amended form filed to the Department of State this week.

“The amended campaign finance report raises more questions than answers, given the enormity of the additional transactions,” the letter says. “What is clear, however, is that submitting a false campaign finance report ‘constitute[s] the crime of perjury’ under Pennsylvania law.”

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

4. The Capital-Star’s 2022 Pa. incumbent retirement and primary tracker

With 2022 on the horizon, tracking legislative turnover amid changing lines, double-bunked incumbents, and retirements is difficult. But the Capital-Star will attempt to track these potential changes over the coming months.

Barring a court challenge, the House and Senate maps are in their final form as of Feb. 5. With that said, here is the latest running tally of lawmakers retiring next year, or facing a colleague to come back to Harrisburg.

(Getty Images)

5. Pa. Republicans vying for U.S. Senate face off in debate

Four GOP candidates vying to fill Pennsylvania’s U.S. Senate seat took the stage Monday night, giving voters a chance to see where they stand on issues ahead of the May 17 primary election.

Real estate developer Jeff Bartos and conservative commentator Kathy Barnette, both of Montgomery County, Everett Stern, a West Chester business owner, and George Bochetto, a Philadelphia attorney, participated in the televised debate at Villanova University.

Meanwhile, Mehmet Oz, the celebrity doctor, Carla Sands, an ambassador to Denmark under the Trump administration, and David McCormick, former chief executive of the hedge fund Bridgewater Associates, opted not to attend Monday night’s public forum, with Sands challenging them to a separate televised debate.

And that’s the week. We’ll see you back here next week. 

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Cassie Miller
Cassie Miller

A native Pennsylvanian, Cassie Miller worked for various publications across the Midstate before joining the team at the Pennsylvania Capital-Star. In her previous roles, she has covered everything from local sports to the financial services industry.