Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the Public Service Commission?
- The Commission is the state agency that regulates gas, electric, telephone, water, and sewage disposal companies in Maryland. Best known to the public is the Commission’s role in setting utility rates. However, the Commission has much broader authority for supervision and regulation of activities of public service companies. Also subject to the jurisdiction of the Commission are electricity and natural gas suppliers, fees for pilotage services to vessels, and the construction of generating stations.
Why do I need an exemption?
- The Commission has the authority to issue a Certificate of Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN), which provides authority for a person to construct or modify a new generating station or high-voltage transmission lines. The deregulation of the electricity market and electricity generation in 1999 allows persons to construct new generating stations. The exemption process allows an owner of a generating station to bypass the process utilized to certificate large central generation stations, while assuring the safety and reliability of the electricity distribution system.
What is the definition of “Generating station?”
- According to the Code of Maryland Regulations (COMAR) 20.79.01.02, “Generating station means property or facilities located in Maryland constituting an integral plant or unit for the production of electric energy, including any new production unit that would be added to an existing production plant. Generation station does not include an integral plant or unit less than or equal to 2,000 kilowatts if it is installed with equipment that prevents the flow of electricity to the electric system during time periods when the electric system is out of service.”
Do I need to file an application for a generating unit with a capacity that is 2,000 kilowatts or less?
- No for all non-solar photovoltaic systems. The definition of “generating station” in COMAR 20.79.01.02 excludes units with a capacity less than or equal to 2,000 kilowatts. However, PUC Article § 7-207.2 requires that a photovoltaic system of 2,000 kilowatts and above must file an application under PUC Article § 7-207.1.
When is a deposit required?
- A deposit of 1 percent of total installed costs is required for a system with the capacity to produce at least 2 megawatts of electricity from a solar photovoltaic system. In this instance an application for approval to construct a generating station must be filed at least 6 months before construction commences.
What notice is required?
- The applicant must provide notice of the application to the governing body of each county or municipal corporation in which any portion of the generating station is proposed to be constructed; the governing body of each county or municipal corporation within 1 mile of the proposed location of the generating station; each member of the General Assembly representing any part of a county in which any portion of the generating station is proposed to be constructed; and each member of the General Assembly representing any part of each county within 1 mile of the proposed location of the generating station.
How many types of generating stations are there?
- There are four types of generating stations:
- Type I Generators – a generator that (1) will not be synchronized with the local electric company’s transmission and distribution system (“electric system”) and (2) will be configured so that there is no export of electricity to the electric system. Type I generators typically include—but are not limited to—emergency back-up generators, and may include generators that participate during PJM Interconnection, L.L.C. (PJM) Emergency Load Response events.
- Type II Generators – a generator that (1) will be synchronized with the electric system and (2) must install protection equipment that is designed to prevent exporting electricity to the electric system. Type II Generators may be called upon by PJM or the local utility to provide load relief during demand response periods or may choose to operate their generators for their own on site use. Type II Generators typically include – but are not limited to —base load generators, peak load demand response generators and peak shaving generators.
- Type III Generators – a generator that (1) will be synchronized with the electric system and (2) will export electricity for sale on the wholesale electric market. Interconnected generators will operate under the terms and conditions of interconnection agreements with the local utility and wholesale sales agreements with PJM.
- Type IV Generators – a generator that (1) will be synchronized with the electric system, and (2) will utilize the “cease to energize” function of a UL 1741 listed inverter to prevent export of power to the area Electric Power System in the event of a fault on the interconnected utility’s grid.
What type of wind-powered generation facilities can receive CPCN exemptions?
- A wind-powered generation facility may receive a CPCN exemption if:
- The generating station is land-based;
- The capacity of the generating station does not exceed 70 megawatts;
- The electricity that may be exported for sale from the generating station to the electric system is sold only on the wholesale market pursuant to an interconnection, operation, and maintenance agreement with the local electric company; and
- The Commission provides an opportunity for public comment at a public hearing.
What other types of generators may apply for an exemption?
- PUA § 7-207.1 provides that certain power generation projects, as described below, are exempted from the CPCN process. This Application is used to request Commission approval if your project meets the following two options:
- The generating station produces on-site generated electricity; the capacity of the generating station does not exceed 70 megawatts; and less than 20 percent of the annual energy generated is exported or sold on the wholesale market.
- The capacity of the generating station does not exceed 25 megawatts; and at least 10 percent of the electricity generated at the generating station each year is consumed on-site.
Would an emergency generator meet these requirements for an exemption?
- Yes, an emergency generator with a capacity that does not exceed 70 MW that does not export any electricity to the distribution system would meet these statutory requirements.
What steps should be completed prior to submitting an application for exemption to the Commission?
- Regardless of the type of installation, the first step is to contact the local electric company where the unit will be installed. The local electric company will determine if an interconnection, operation and maintenance agreement is necessary. For Type I generators, the local distribution company will provide a letter to you indicating that an interconnection, maintenance and operation agreement is not necessary or will provide information that will allow you to complete such an agreement. For Type II, III, and IV generators, an interconnection, maintenance, and operation agreement with the local electric company will be necessary, and must be filed with the PSC before the application will be approved. A Type III generator will also require a wholesale sales agreement with the Independent System Operator. You should contact the representative of the local electricity distribution company as soon as information regarding the project is available to learn of the specific steps required. Failure to obtain the necessary documentation from the local electric company or Independent System Operator will delay the review and approval of an application for an exemption.
What is the Independent System Operator?
- PJM is a regional transmission organization that ensures the reliability of the largest centrally dispatched control area in North America by coordinating the movement of electricity in all of its operating territories. Information about PJM can be found on its website at http://pjm.com. Please contact PJM at 866-400-8980 or 610-666-8980.
Note: if the local distribution company determines that an interconnection agreement is not necessary for your unit, documentation from the Independent System Operator is not necessary.
What is involved in the review of the interconnection of Type II, III and IV generators by the local electric company?
- The local electric company reviews the proposed interconnection of Type II, III, and IV generators with the local electric distribution system to ensure that the operation of the generator will not affect the safety and reliability of the distribution system, and determines if any modifications to the distribution system are necessary to allow the interconnection. The PSC has adopted regulations at COMAR 20.50.09 to standardize the review by the local electric company and specify time limits for the completion of various phases of the review. If an interconnection involves an electric transmission system, the safety and reliability review may involve the Independent System Operator. Since these reviews must be completed before the local electric company will provide a maintenance, interconnection, and operation agreement, you should contact the representative of the local electric company as soon as information regarding the project is available to learn the specific steps that may be required.
How long will it take to obtain an exemption?
- The single largest cause of delay in the processing of applications is incomplete applications or attachments. The Commission will not consider incomplete applications. When a complete application is submitted, with all required documentations, the approval process should take approximately 30 days to complete.
Who must sign the application?
- The second largest cause for delay is that the application is not signed by legal counsel for the Applicant, an officer of the Applicant, or a person who has the authority to legally bind the Applicant to the terms and conditions of the exemption. The Applicant is the person who will own or operate the proposed generating unit. Therefore consultants and/or contractors assisting an applicant cannot sign the application on behalf of the owner/operator of the proposed generating unit.
Is there a filing fee?
- Yes, the cost for processing an exemption application is $500 and must be made payable to the Maryland Public Service Commission. A further explanation of the Commission’s filing fees is located on the Commission’s webpage.
Who is exempt from the filing fee?
- The filing fee is waived for all federal agencies. The filing fee is also waived for a unit of State government or for a service performed by the Commission for a unit of State government.
How do I file the application?
- For filing instructions see page 1 of the Application for Commission Approval to Construct a Generating Station (Application).
What does an “electronic version of this Application and required attachments” mean?
- An electronic version of the application means the application and attachments on a PC- compatible diskette or CD. The diskette or CD must be mailed to the Commission with the original and 17 copies of the Application.
How does the Commission’s approval process work?
- Upon receipt, the Commission will assign your application to be evaluated by its technical staff. The purpose of the review is to determine if the proposed units comply with the exemption requirements. The technical staff may also contact you seeking clarification of information contained in your application. The technical staff prepares recommendations for the Commission to consider such as whether to approve the application for exemption, and any restrictions and conditions for the exemption. The application will be scheduled for hearing at the Commission’s weekly Administrative Meeting. This meeting is open to the public and applicants may attend these meetings and offer comment or provide additional information in support of their application. The schedule for Administrative meetings can be found at the Commission’s web site: www.psc.state.md.us under the heading of “Commission Calendar” icon. If the electricity is produced from wind, the Commission is required to hold a public comment hearing in the county and municipal corporation where any portion of the wind-powered generation station will be located; and requires the Applicant to pay for publication of a notice of the hearing for two weeks in a local newspaper. The Commission will contact the Applicant regarding details of the public meeting and notice.
Will I be notified when the exemption is approved?
- Applicants will be notified in writing of the Commission’s decision regarding their application. In most cases notification should arrive within a week following approval.
What happens with the exemption?
- The exemption should be included with your application for permits from the Maryland Department of the Environment. The approval of an exemption from the Commission does not constitute an exemption from the Maryland Department of the Environment’s requirement to obtain an air quality permit to construct and operate the exempted unit(s). The Applicant is directed to contact the Maryland Department of the Environment prior to the start of the construction of the exempted unit(s) to determine what requirements will need to be fulfilled. Information regarding the Department of the Environment’s requirements can be found at www.mde.state.md.us. There may also be additional state or local regulatory requirements.
- Questions regarding the exemption process should be directed to the Commission’s Energy Analysis and Planning Division at 410-767-8130.