Refusal to provide connection conditions for PV devices

Without the modernization of the power grid, distribution system operators will increasingly refuse to provide conditions for the connection of devices to the network. How big is the scale of this phenomenon? And how to fix it?

In 2019-2020 alone, the local branches of the Energy Regulatory Authority (ERO) received a total of 1,209 notifications about the refusal to connect RES facilities to the electricity grid. This is a significant increase compared to 2017-2018, which included 260 such notifications.

According to additional sources, according to the Energy Regulatory Authority, in the first half of 2021, 1246 people were denied connection to the network. Only the official data of one of the distribution system operators (DSO) shows that the number of refusals to connect RES facilities to the network in 2020 was 5% of the submitted applications, and in 2021 – about 25%. – says Agatha Bator, an expert from the Department of Energy and Climate Change of the Lewiatan Confederation. In the context of the photovoltaic industry, it is emphasized that the refusal to grant the terms of connection applies to both projects with a capacity of several tens of MW, and often small projects with a capacity of less than 1 MW. What do system operators say? Energy operator and Tauron Dystrybucja responded to the editorial request. The companies said the waivers, if any, did not apply to micro-installations. However, they acknowledge that the distribution network’s potential to connect new sources is shrinking.

The power grid is not made of rubber

Why does this happen? The connection of new sources to the energy system depends on the availability and condition of the network infrastructure. This means that the technical development of photovoltaic power plants is limited by the availability of connectivity. And this is slowly increasing, as shown by the Institute of Renewable Energy (IEO) – from 340 MW to a maximum of 1100 MW per year. The analysis of the institute shows that in 2021 the connection capacity for completely new energy sources was about 12 GW, while in 2025 this figure will be slightly more than 14 GW. The main thing is that the availability of connectivity is not evenly distributed across the country (see map).

Connection options are available

System operators also tell us that there is a problem. – In some places, the network is no longer able to accommodate larger generation sources, and all DSOs in Poland have such problems. Distributors are unable to rebuild the network in a short period of time and meet the expectations of applicants. In addition, the construction of renewable energy sources is often planned in areas where the energy infrastructure is underdeveloped and requires significantly higher costs. For this reason, there are sometimes refusals to connect large RES facilities to the network – Tauron shows Dystrybucja.

How do DSOs argue for a waiver?

The reason for the refusal is mostly “lack of technical capabilities to connect the PV device to the network.” Also, inter alia, it is noted that the distribution network is overloaded, the total planned production capacity is not balanced with the demand at a certain network node where the connection will be made, and the allowable voltage level in the distribution network is exceeded. – We should not allow the allowable voltage level to be exceeded, as this could pose a significant risk to the operation of the network, as well as conditions that make it impossible to extract power from a particular power source. – Energa Operator Explains.

Operators say that such refusals occur as a result of an analysis of the technical feasibility of connecting the source to the network. – The potential location is always carefully checked for the impact of the planned source on the quality parameters of the distributed electricity, as well as the possibility of applying the required power. – Tauron adds Dystrybucja.

It also happens that DSOs use the provisions of local spatial development plans (SDPs) to waive contact terms. According to Piotr Szwarc, a lawyer for CCLaw, this reason is controversial due to the vague provisions of the Law on Spatial Planning and Development. – In my opinion, many of the refusals regarding the provisions of the Local Development Plan are unfounded – shows.

In justifying their refusals, operators generally do not indicate the prospect of a connection when it is possible. – Entrepreneurs investing in the development of renewable energy sources (often exaggerated, confidential or business secrets) are also barred from accessing certain information during the dispute before the ERO President. ) – Agata Bator explains.

Solution of problem

Changing the situation requires, first of all, a review of the established practices of distribution and transmission operators. It is also necessary to modernize outdated power grids (according to the Polish Electricity Transmission and Distribution Society, 40% of grids are over 40 years old), but this will be time consuming and costly. – This problem can be solved more quickly, for example, by changing the rules in the field of direct lines, which can be used to send electricity, for example, from a large photovoltaic farm to a large production plant bypassing the distribution network. – Piotr Szwarc notes.

Agata Bator sees the solution in providing transparent access to information on the terms of connection of new devices to the network, as well as increasing the standard of procedures for issuing connection terms and concluding connection agreements. – Increasing transparency in access to information is also important in terms of developing new solutions in the field of renewable energy, which is very important for the photovoltaic industry. – adds. Among the solutions, he noted, among others, cable connection – the sharing of transmission infrastructure by devices using different types of renewable energy, in most cases photovoltaic and wind. Such optimization of the use of existing communication capabilities can reduce the investment needs of the network and at the same time remove restrictions on its capacity. – However, it will be difficult to create a stable environment for the implementation of such solutions without increasing transparency in accessing information on communication conditions. – Agata Bator explains.

DSOs also have an attitude to this issue. According to Tauron Dystrybucja, in addition to the measures taken by the energy distributor, the actions of the applicants are equally important. – It is blocked by requests that do not have a large part of the connectivity or are partially executed. In addition, some organizations apply for connection and submit applications in several places, checking the possibility of connection only without the intention to set up such sources in all these places. – indicates the operator.

Joanna Spiller: Journalist, environmental engineer

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