Energy Central Professional


Maine PUC Issues Order Denying Waiver Involving Solarize Topsham

Targeted News Service  


    AUGUSTA, Maine, Jan. 26 (TNSsro) -- The Maine Public Utilities Commission issued the following order denying waiver (No. 2022-00336) on Jan. 25, 2023:

    * * *

    Solarize Topsham, LLC Request for Waiver Regarding Chapter 324, Aggregated Generation Screening


    BARTLETT, Chair; DAVIS and SCULLY, Commissioners


    The Commission denies the waiver request filed by Solarize Topsham, LLC, (Solarize) for interconnection without further restudy, which it filed pursuant to Section 16 of Chapter 324 of the Commission Rules.


    On November 8, 2022, Solarize Topsham, LLC, (Solarize) filed a Petition for Waiver pursuant to Section 16 of Chapter 324 of the Commission's Rules. Chapter 324 governs small generator interconnection procedures. Specifically, Solarize states that as a result of paying 100% of its interconnection agreement costs it should have been deemed as "Aggregated Generation" at the time of payment, and thus eligible for interconnection without further restudy or delay. (Petition at 9).

    On November 23, 2022, a Procedural Order was issued, requesting that Central Maine Power Company (CMP) file a response to Solarize's waiver request. On December 7, 2022, CMP filed its reply to the waiver request, opposing Solarize's petition.

    On December 9, 2022, the Presiding Officers issued a Procedural Order that requested CMP answer additional questions. On December 16, 2022, CMP filed answers to the additional questions.


    Chapter 324 of the Commission's Rules establishes procedures and protocols for small generators to interconnect to an electric utility's distribution system. The rule establishes requirements for four discrete generator categories: Level 1, Level 2, Level 3 and Level 4, including protocols for application and review procedures.

    On July 20, 2021, the Commission initiated a rulemaking proceeding to consider amendments to Chapter 324. Amendments to Small Generator Interconnection Procedures (Chapter 324), (Docket No. 2021-00167). On December 21, 2021, the Commission adopted rule amendments. Order Amending Rule and Statement of Factual and Policy Basis (Dec. 21, 2021) (Order Amending Rule). As part of these changes, the Commission added a definition of "Aggregated Generation." The prior rule did not contain a definition of this term.

    The definition of Aggregated Generation contained in the amended Chapter 324 is as follows:

    "Aggregated Generation" means, as of the date of the Applicant's application, the following ICGF projects, in addition to the project proposed by the Applicant, that are or would be interconnected to the Radial Distribution Circuit: (i) all existing projects that are in-service; and (ii) all ICGFs that have paid the T&D Utility for 100% of interconnection-related costs attributable to it, including costs for studies, distribution facilities, system upgrades, metering, and other items which the ICGF has cost responsibility.

    Ch 324, Sec. 2(A).

    As explained in the Order Amending Rule at 4, the adopted definition includes all existing generation, the generation from the proposing generator, and projects with an Interconnection Agreement (IA) that have paid for 100% of the costs associated with the interconnection. The Commission concluded that the requirement for payment of 100% of the construction costs provides reasonable certainty that the project will reach commercial operation justifying it inclusion when determining Aggregated Generation./1


    Based on the filings in this proceeding, the following are the facts to be considered in the evaluation of the waiver request.

    On April 13, 2022, Solarize submitted its application for interconnection of its project at 449 Augusta Road in Topsham. (Petition at 2-3). The project, designated as PRJ 710 (Project), was submitted as a 2.49 MW installation. A scoping meeting occurred on April 19, 2022. The Project elected to proceed with a combined systems impact study on April 28, 2022. On May 10, 2022, CMP sent Solarize the combined study agreement. On May 13, 2022, Solarize signed the combined study agreement. On May 18, 2022, Solarize paid the $1,500 combined study deposit.

    On June 2, 2022, the Project updated the design and AC size for the project to 996 kW. CMP returned the fully executed system impact study (SIS) agreement on June 30, 2022. CMP delivered the SIS report on August 26, 2022, and the results meeting occurred on August 30, 2022.

    The Project requested an IA on September 1, 2022. On September 8, 2022, CMP delivered the IA to Solarize, and it was fully executed on that date. On September 15, 2022, CMP sent Solarize a revised IA to correct the cost, which was incorrect on the original IA. The revised IA was fully executed by both CMP and Solarize on September 15, 2022.

    On October 6, 2022, Solarize requested that CMP invoice 100% of the amount specified in the IA so that it could make payment. Despite not having an invoice from CMP that reflected 100% of the amount specified in the IA, the Project submitted full payment of the IA costs to CMP on October 14, 2022. On October 17, 2022, CMP confirmed receipt of the wire payment for the full IA cost.

    On October 20, 2022, the Project received an email notification from CMP that a 540 kW Level 2 project had "leapfrogged" it. As a result of the change in queue position, the Project, and another project ahead of it in the queue, PRJ 547, required a restudy.

    The Level 2 project application was deemed complete by CMP on July 12, 2022. The Level 2 project failed its technical screening on July 25, 2022. Pursuant to subsection 10.H of Chapter 324, however, the Level 2 project requested an additional review to determine whether "Minor System Modifications" would enable the interconnection to be made consistent with safety, reliability, and power quality. CMP conducted this review and determined the Level 2 project could safely interconnect with minor modifications. The Level 2 project was notified of its ability to interconnect on October 10, 2022.


    A. Solarize

    Solarize states that the circumstances of this matter highlight the significant risk to Level 4 projects that is caused by the definition of Aggregated Generation in Chapter 324. Solarize argues that the definition excludes it from that calculation absent - and, in some cases, in spite of -- payment of 100% of the known interconnection costs. According to Solarize, the problems created by the new definition are highlighted by the facts of this case because it paid 100% of the known interconnection costs, only to be informed days later that it had been leapfrogged by a Level 2 project before that payment was made.

    Solarize argues that these circumstances provide good cause for the Commission to grant a waiver of the Chapter 324 requirements for further restudy of its project because the need for a restudy directly resulted from implementation of the Commission's rule change on what constitutes "Aggregated Generation." Solarize requests the Commission (i) waive any requirements for further restudy for the Project, which is currently delayed by the Level 2 project that jumped the queue as a result of the recent rule change, and (ii) allow its project to proceed immediately with interconnection pursuant to its fully executed IA.

    Essentially, Solarize argues that, although the Commission's adoption of a definition of "Aggregated Generation" was well intentioned, it has had the opposite effect by delaying, increasing the costs of carefully sited and studied projects, and potentially ending the projects due to substation constraints or other project details, including its projects, which is less than 1 MW and is not awaiting i.3.9 cluster study approval.

    Finally, Solarize argues that the further delay is contrary to the intention of the Chapter 324 process which is to allow smaller projects that are unlikely to pose safety or reliability issues to proceed without incurring expense and delays associated with extensive studies and process. Solarize states that its project's capacity of 0.996 MW makes it similarly situated to the Level 2 project and thus its project should be allowed to proceed to interconnection without further restudy or delay.

    B. Central Maine Power

    CMP opposes Solarize's waiver request on the grounds that an earlier queued project at the Topsham Substation has not paid its distribution costs, therefore the whole queue must be restudied due to the addition of the Level 2 project. The Project at issue in this waiver request is project 2 in the queue and therefore, even if retroactively considered "Aggregated Generation," the project still needs to undergo a restudy to understand the implications of any changes to the upgrades required of projects queued ahead of it that are being re-studied as a result of the leapfrogging project. Unfortunately, a Level 4 project not requiring i.3.9 approval that has paid all distribution upgrades (or even a project that receives i.3.9 and has paid for 100% of T&D upgrades) that is queued behind other projects can never be insulated so long as one or more projects ahead of them at the substation have not made 100% payment.

    Further, CMP states that, if the projects ahead of it at the substation have not paid 100% of their distribution upgrades, those prior queued projects are all susceptible to leapfrogging. Once one of those projects is leapfrogged, the entire queue at that substation must be restudied. This is the case regardless of whether every project queued after the first one has paid 100% of distribution upgrades.

    CMP recognizes that this is an outstanding issue trigged by the new definition of Aggregated Generation and it expresses willingness to work on potential amendments to the rule in the upcoming rulemaking that could address this issue. Due to safety and reliability issues, however, CMP cannot push a later queued project that has been insulated ahead of a prior queued project - and especially not without restudy.

    Finally, CMP notes that even if the Commission determined that the Project should not have been leapfrogged, the project would still require restudy as projects earlier in the queue are not insulated and therefore all downstream projects must be restudied.


    Section 16 of Chapter 324 governs waivers or exemptions from provisions of the rule. Section 16 states:

    Upon the request of any person subject to this Chapter or upon its own motion, the Commission may, for good cause, waive any requirement of this Chapter that is not required by statute. The waiver may not be inconsistent with the purposes of this Chapter or Title 35-A. The Commission, the Director of the Electric and Gas Division, or the presiding officer assigned to a proceeding related to this Chapter may grant the waiver.

    There is no allegation in this proceeding that CMP has violated any provision of Chapter 324 regarding the application of "Aggregated Generation." Rather, the issue before the Commission is whether there is good cause to waive the Aggregated Generation provision of the rule under the facts and circumstances presented by Solarize.

    In this proceeding, Solarize is essentially arguing that the Commission's adoption of the definition of Aggregated Generation in its 2021 rulemaking proceeding was erroneous. The Commission was aware that the definition could pose challenges similar to those outlined in Solarize's Petition. The Commission adopted the definition understanding that there is no perfect solution in aiding smaller projects through the interconnection process with minimal costs and delays. As noted in the filings, the Commission has opened an inquiry and will commence rulemaking for Chapter 324 to consider further amendments that may amend the definition or create an alternative approach that could address some of these issues.

    Upon a consideration of the facts presented in this proceeding, the Commission cannot conclude that there are some unusual or unforeseen circumstances to justify a finding that good cause exists for the requested waiver. The facts show that regardless of whether Solarize paid the costs specified in its IA to CMP, a restudy would have been necessary due to the existence of a project ahead of its project in the queue that had not paid its costs. As CMP points out, restudy in these circumstances is essential to ensure safety and reliability of the system. Thus, the facts do not support Solarize's request for a waiver.

    Accordingly, it is


    1. That the Solarize Topsham, LLC, Petition for a Waiver is, hereby denied.

    Dated at Hallowell, Maine, this 25th day of January 2023.


    Harry Lanphear, Administrative Director




    * * *


    1/ In an Order Clarifying Order Granting Waiver, the Commission stated that a project must pay 100% of known distribution (not transmission) costs to be counted as "aggregated generation," notwithstanding the fact that the project has not received i.3.9 approval. Central Maine Power Company Request for Apprpoval of Waiver of Chapter 324, Order Clarifying Order Granting Waiver, Docket No. 2020-00211 (Oct. 20, 2022).

    * * *

    Original text here:{85D1F76F-05EB-4287-9860-74324CA65AED}&DocExt=pdf&DocName=2022%2000336%20Solarize%20final%20decision.pdf


Copyright © 1996-2023 by CyberTech, Inc. All rights reserved.
Energy Central® and Energy Central Professional® are registered trademarks of CyberTech, Incorporated. Data and information is provided for informational purposes only, and is not intended for trading purposes. CyberTech does not warrant that the information or services of Energy Central will meet any specific requirements; nor will it be error free or uninterrupted; nor shall CyberTech be liable for any indirect, incidental or consequential damages (including lost data, information or profits) sustained or incurred in connection with the use of, operation of, or inability to use Energy Central. Other terms of use may apply. Membership information is confidential and subject to our privacy agreement.