May 23 (Reuters) - The U.S. Federal Energy Regulatory Commission aims to finalize its plan to speed up the process of connecting power projects to the grid over the coming months, FERC Chairman Willie Phillips said on Tuesday, calling the issue his top priority.

“I’ve talked a lot about how important it is to move forward on transmission planning in general, but when it comes to interconnection queue reforms, that is my number one top priority,” he told Reuters on the sidelines of the Tribal Energy Equity Summit in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“We're looking within the coming months - this summer - to get something significant out addressing the issue."

Long waits for transmission interconnection have slowed efforts to ease wild pricing and tight power supply in some markets, and hobbled the progress of big solar and wind projects that need access to end-users.

Renewable energy development is a cornerstone of the Biden administration's efforts to combat climate change.

Phillips said the plan, which was first proposed last year, would aim to alleviate a growing backlog of interconnection requests nationwide in part by shifting the approval process from a “first come, first serve” approach to a “first ready” approach – meaning projects that are best prepared will move ahead faster.

"We cannot reliably and affordably manage this energy transition if we continue to have expensive delays in the connection queues," he said.

At the end of 2021, more than 1,400 gigawatts of generation and storage projects were waiting in interconnection queues throughout the country - three-times more that five years ago, the FERC said.

On average, it takes about three years for a project to get connected to the grid.

Writing by Richard Valdmanis; editing by Barbara Lewis

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Thomson Reuters

Valerie Volcovici covers U.S. environment and energy policy from Washington, DC. She is focused on climate and environmental regulations at federal agencies and in Congress. She also covers the impact of these regulatory changes across the United States. Other areas of coverage include plastic pollution and international climate negotiations.

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