What Is a Hosting Capacity Analysis (HCA)?

Hosting Capacity Analyses are an analytical tool that can help states and utilities plan for and build a cleaner electric grid that optimizes customer-driven distributed energy resources (DERs), such as rooftop solar, energy storage, or electric vehicle charging stations.

A graphic shows text over a green background with icons of the sun, a solar panel, and a battery. The headline says "Hosting capacity analysis is a clean energy game changer." While body text adds, "Hosting capacity analysis (HCA) is a new analytical tool that can help states and utilities plan for and build a cleaner electric grid that optimizes customer-driven distributed energy resources (DERs), such as rooftop solar and energy storage."

They provide a snapshot in time of the conditions on a utility’s distribution grid that reflect its ability to “host” additional DERs at specific locations on the grid—without the need for costly grid upgrades or lengthy interconnection studies. They are often displayed in the form of maps with supporting datasets.

IREC has been actively involved in regulatory proceedings and research projects related to HCA development around the country, including in California, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Minnesota. These experiences have yielded a number of lessons about the factors necessary to produce a useful HCA, which IREC has shared in reports, articles, and other formats. 

This page provides an overview of hosting capacity analysis and IREC’s related resources for regulators, utilities, and other clean energy stakeholders. Read on to explore our related reports, blog posts, and webinars. We also share links to other helpful external resources like the hosting capacity maps of utilities around the country.

Why Are Hosting Capacity Analyses Important?

A graphic shows an icon of building blocks over a pale green background. The headline reads "HCAs are the building blocks with which the grid of the future will be built." Additional text says "An HCA provides a snapshot in time of the conditions on a utility's distribution grid that reflect its ability to host additional DERs. The information can help regulators, utilities, developers, and customers make more proactive, cost-effective, and efficient decisions about DER investments.

HCAs provide greater transparency into the grid. They can help reveal the operational limits of the grid, which impact the ability of new DERs to interconnect quickly or affordably. They can also identify areas where DERs may be able to provide beneficial services by addressing existing grid constraints and inform more strategic grid investments over the long term.

Since they first began being developed around 2015, hosting capacity maps have been rapidly increasing in popularity. As the growth of DERs has accelerated, more and more states are requiring or actively considering the development of HCAs to better support the integration of these resources. 

However, not all HCAs are created equal. A number of decisions in the process of their development will shape how useful and reliable they are for different purposes. IREC has detailed these considerations in its latest report on hosting capacity analysis, Key Decisions for Hosting Capacity Analyses, as well as in blog posts like Validation Is Critical to Making Hosting Capacity Analysis a Clean Energy Game-Changer.

Hosting capacity analyses allow utilities, regulators, and electricity customers to make more efficient and cost-effective choices about where, when, and how to deploy distributed energy resources on the grid.

Sky Stanfield, attorney for IREC and Partner at Shute, Mihaly & Weinberger

HCA Resources

Articles and Blog Posts Exploring Key Hosting Capacity Considerations

The usefulness of an HCA is highly contingent on having confidence that its results accurately reflect grid conditions at the site. This article explores important lessons for how regulators can ensure the quality and usefulness of hosting capacity maps by building in requirements for utilities to validate the accuracy of both the inputs and outputs. 

California was one of the first states to require hosting capacity analyses (which it refers to as integration capacity analyses or ICAs). This article provides an overview of California’s ICA and why it matters. It highlights the features, capabilities, and merits of the different utilities’ ICA results and maps, and outstanding issues to address. Next steps are then previewed, including how these tools will be applied to streamline the process of interconnecting DERs to the grid and to inform distribution planning.

In this in-depth article, we address some of the recent developments on HCA as they continue to evolve and as healthy debates about the tool and its uses play out in more states. We set out to ask—and explore answers to—the following key questions surrounding HCA:

-Can hosting capacity analysis be used to streamline the interconnection process for DERs?
-How should the accuracy of hosting capacity results be evaluated?
-How much methodological transparency is needed?”

This article introduces hosting capacity analysis and details related efforts in California (where HCAs are called integration capacity analyses or ICAs). We explore why ICAs matter, summarize key findings from the California Working Group effort on this issue, and highlight important insights that are transferable to other states seeking to enable a more modern grid.

A hosting capacity map shows red, green, and yellow lines indicating which circuits on the distribution grid have capacity for additional DERs.
Example of a hosting capacity map. Source: Southern California Edison

Reports, Webinars, and Other Longform Resources on Hosting Capacity Analysis

This paper is designed to help readers understand the variety of issues and decisions that need to be considered as a public-facing HCA is developed—in order to ensure it is useful in informing the integration of more DERs on the grid. IREC has been actively involved in regulatory proceedings and research projects related to HCA development around the country, including in California, Colorado, New York, Massachusetts, Nevada, and Minnesota. These experiences yielded a number of lessons about the factors necessary to produce a useful analysis which other states can leverage to maximize the success of their HCA efforts.

Utility regulators play a key role in ensuring HCAs are deployed strategically, prudently, and for the benefit of all energy customers. Optimizing the Grid: A Regulator’s Guide to Hosting Capacity Analyses for Distributed Energy Resources will assist state regulators in guiding and overseeing utilities as they conduct hosting capacity analyses on their distribution circuits, as part of a broader grid modernization or distribution planning efforts and/or in support of their state’s near- and long-term energy policy goals.

Based on lessons from the handful of states and utilities that have begun to prepare HCAs, this guide focuses on the process that will help regulators realize HCAs’ full promise in their respective states. The experiences and key takeaways from the states and utilities undertaking these analyses, including California, New York, Minnesota, Hawaii, and Pepco Holdings, Inc., provide important insights for other states and utilities to take into consideration as they pursue similar efforts.

IREC hosted a webinar on January 10, 2018 about hosting capacity analysis and its report Optimizing the Grid: A Regulator’s Guide to Hosting Capacity Analyses for Distributed Energy Resources. Report authors Sky Stanfield, Stephanie Safdi, and Sara Baldwin provided an overview and insights on the findings and recommendations from the guide, including lessons learned from states already engaged in HCA efforts.

Image of distribution lines (small power lines) at sunset

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