The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) last week scheduled a full day Technical Conference to evaluate potential reforms needed to enable independent offshore transmission. This decision comes in response to Anbaric’s complaint filed against PJM Interconnection in November 2019, claiming that the PJM Tariff denies meaningful interconnection service to Anbaric and other offshore transmission developers.

While FERC dismissed Anbaric’s request for immediate modification of the PJM Tariff, Commissioners expressed bipartisan support for evaluating the role of independent offshore transmission in facilitating the growth of the U.S. offshore wind industry. In announcing the Conference, Commissioner Richard Glick noted that “offshore platform transmission projects, where the transmission is built in anticipation of generation, may be the most efficient approach for accommodating the growth of offshore wind.” Echoing Glick’s remarks, Commissioner Bernard McNamee stated: “The fact that we’re going to be having a technical conference on how to develop offshore wind and the transmission issues involved with it is very important.”

The Technical Conference scheduled for October 27, 2020 will “discuss whether existing Commission transmission, interconnection, and merchant transmission facility frameworks in RTOs/ISOs can accommodate anticipated growth in offshore wind generation in an efficient and effective manner that safeguards open access transmission principles and to consider possible changes or improvements to the current framework should they be needed to accommodate such growth.”

The conference comes as states at the forefront of the offshore wind industry focus on the benefits of independent offshore transmission. New Jersey enacted a law in 2020 giving the state’s public utility agency authority to procure open-access transmission and the state’s Energy Master Plan recognized that planned transmission could “decrease ratepayer costs and optimize the delivery of offshore wind generation into the state’s transmission system.” New York is conducting multiple studies to examine how investment in transmission can accelerate the deployment of renewables, including offshore wind, and Massachusetts is developing recommendations and procurement approaches for offshore transmission.

Anbaric looks forward to discussing potential improvements to current regulatory frameworks to accommodate the unique attributes of independent, open access transmission for offshore wind. Competitive development of terrestrial transmission has been shown to decrease costs in the United States, and in Germany and the Netherlands building offshore transmission separately from generation enabled zero-subsidy bids from wind farm developers.  In the Northeast U.S. separating transmission from generation can optimize integration of tens of gigawatts of planned offshore wind generation and minimize impacts on fisheries and the environment.