Map of the Month – October

Grace Parker

Source: Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory; Map: SEEA

The Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and other recent federal developments provide unprecedented opportunities to hasten the energy transition through the development of renewable energy resources. Yet this progress is being hindered by the backlog of energy projects waiting in the interconnection queue, a phase in which energy developers request to connect to the power grid and complete studies about the impact of these connections. The number of projects waiting in the nation’s interconnection queue grew by 40 percent in 2022 as more renewable energy projects were greenlit. The amount of time each project spends in the queue is also growing. Projects completed in 2022 spent an average of five years in the queue, compared to less than two years for projects completed in 2008.

These delays threaten project feasibility, potentially undermining the transition to renewable energy.  During waiting periods, project terms, including how much consumers will pay for electricity and the availability and costs of proposed real estate, are likely to change, which leads to projects being abandoned. Less than a quarter of the projects in the queue are expected to be completed.

This month’s map shows the total capacity of energy projects in the queue for each state, and how much of each of this capacity is in renewable energy projects. The data, from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, includes seven independent system operators and 35 utilities, representing about 85% of the U.S. electricity load.

Texas leads the country by far in total capacity in the queue with about 200 GW, followed by California and Arizona, with about 113 GW each. Interconnection queues are managed by regional transmission organizations and utilities, so the total capacity in the queue indicates both interest in building energy projects and the efficiency of queue managers.

The proportion of capacity that is renewable energy is high overall, with only seven states below 80 percent. The relatively large backlog of projects in the queue in other regions might be due in part to the lack of long-distance, high-capacity transmission lines on which renewable energy projects typically depend. Lacking this infrastructure, renewable projects are more challenging to connect to the grid, contributing to long periods in the queue.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission issued a rule reforming the interconnection process in July by streamlining permitting, instituting deadlines and fines for delayed assessments, and instituting financial requirements to cut down on speculative projects. But many experts still say that more system reform is needed to meet clean energy goals. While policymakers are working on additional changes to the interconnection process, energy efficiency upgrades are critical for preparing homes and commercial buildings to realize the maximum benefit of renewable energy supplies.