On July 31, 2020, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission ordered utility Xcel Energy to make several changes to its 2020 Hosting Capacity Analysis (HCA) which it will file on November 2, 2020. These changes will make the results more useful for determining where new generation capacity, such as solar PV systems, can be sited.
Previous HCAs from Xcel aggregated results and blurred out a large amount of detail. Future HCAs will show data at a much more granular level making them more useful for clean energy developers. The images below provide a representative example.
The Interstate Renewable Energy Council, and its local partners including Fresh Energy, were integrally involved in the regulatory proceedings. These changes reflect best practices that IREC and its partners recommended to the Commission.
Specific Improvements to Xcel’s Minnesota Hosting Capacity Map
- Xcel’s map and downloadable spreadsheet will include more distribution system data that will help customers design projects to avoid lengthy studies or upgrades. The Commission ordered Xcel to additionally provide for each feeder on its system: Transformer Name, Transformer Absolute Minimum Load, Load Tap Changer (LTC) or Regulator, Feeder Absolute Minimum Load, feeder type (Network or Radial), and if the daytime minimum load is actual or estimated.
- Xcel will provide downloadable data with each line segment’s hosting capacity results and criteria violation values, and will label line segments with a unique name or number.
- Xcel’s map will show the actual locations of distribution system lines instead of broad blocks of color.
- Xcel will develop a data validation plan, and accept feedback from stakeholders on a draft plan, before submitting its next HCA report on November 2, 2020. (For more information on the importance of HCA validation, see this article.)
The Commission also adopted a long-term goal to use the hosting capacity analysis in the interconnection process’s fast track screens. To our knowledge, this is the first time a Commission has explicitly adopted this long-term goal.
Issues for Future Improvement
There are still areas where additional reform would be valuable to make HCAs in Minnesota as useful as possible, particularly updates to how frequently Xcel is required to update its HCA. Currently, Xcel is required to update its HCA annually, meaning that the results are out of date for much of the year. IREC has recommended that monthly updates be required. The Commission has ordered Xcel to provide cost estimates for monthly updates and will consider this issue next year.
Additionally, Xcel has recently announced its plans to serve more EV customers. Hosting capacity analysis also has important implications for EV growth; if Xcel included results for new load in its HCA, it would be useful for customers looking to site EV charging stations. Xcel does not currently include this information. IREC has recommended this change as an area for future improvement.