Xcel Energy Minnesota has been fined $ 1 million for exceeding a maximum number of customer service complaints due to significant delays in processing interconnection requests for solar projects.
A decision by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) confirms consumers' right to adequate customer service in the interconnection process. The interconnection, the process of connecting a solar system or other distributed energy resource (DER) to the power grid, is a crucial step in the project development process.
The recent case in Minnesota exemplifies the challenges of interconnecting clean energy projects and why those delays and other frustrations can be so harmful to consumers and businesses. The resolution, recently taken in a Minnesota PUC hearing, offers Minnesota consumers and solar companies a profit.
The Commission fined Xcel Energy for exceeding the threshold of complaints submitted, many of which related to significant issues with Xcel's interconnection process. It also sets a helpful precedent for how utility regulators can hold utility companies accountable for providing an efficient interconnection process and good customer service to their tariff payers who invest in solar and other clean energy technologies.
As the race to combat climate change becomes more urgent, such interconnection delays slow the critical process of bringing more solar and other distributed energy resources (DERs) into the grid. They also add to the cost of solar project development and undermine the vast work that is being done in states across the country to make solar development faster and more affordable.