Jeffords introduces bill to set national interconnection standard

Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, who is leaving the Republican Party to become an independent, and a group of Democratic senators have introduced legislation that calls for development of a national standard to interconnect to the electricity grid. It would also require utilities to sell back-up power to owners of on site generation.


By the OGJ Online Staff

HOUSTON, June 1 -- Sen. James M. Jeffords of Vermont, who is leaving the Republican Party to become an independent, and a group of Democratic senators have introduced legislation that calls for development of a national standard to interconnect to the electricity grid.

The bill, cosponsored by Sens. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY), Joseph Lieberman (D-Conn.), Charles Schumer (D-NY), and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt), would also require local utilities to sell back-up electricity to owners of on site distributed generation, such as combined heat and power systems, fuel cells, or solar systems. Similar legislation has been introduced in the US House.

Presently, interconnection standards are set by each utility and distribution interconnection requirements are administered by state authorities. An interconnection is a group of electrical switches and controls that allow large and small generators to connect to the electric grid. Technical requirements establish how the interconnection must be accomplished.

With hundreds of standards in existence, utilities use their control over interconnection standards as a tool to limit competition, charged Craig E. Bennett, staff attorney for Trigen Energy Corp., White Plains, NY, which develops combined heat and power systems. Multiple standards raise the cost of engineering studies and equipment required to connect to a distribution system, he said.

Bennett estimated the combined heat and power market could total $80 billion/year and consist of 5,800 medical centers, 1,800 universities with central heating, and most US industrial production. But a lack of uniform interconnect standards, protected distribution monopolies, and environmental rules have discouraged deployment of distributed generation, he said.

The bill, which would amend the Federal Power Act, requires the Federal Energy Regulator Commission to create a technical advisory committee and issue uniform, nondiscriminatory interconnection rules within 1 year after its passage. The states would be permitted to administer the rules.

Lieberman said the legislation endeavors to protect consumers in a restricted market by ensuring all types of power suppliers can connect to the grid. Sponsors said the legislation has received endorsements from a number of organizations, including the Electric Power Supply Association, the American Public Power Association, the US Department of Energy, and the US Environmental Protection Agency.

More in Government