Xcel Energy Prepares for the Future with Its Integrated Distribution Plan Filing in Minnesota

On November 1, 2018, Northern States Power Minnesota, d/b/a Xcel Energy, filed its first Integrated Distribution Plan (IDP), fulfilling the requirements of an IDP Order issued by the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (MPUC) on August 30, 2018. The comprehensive filing includes a wealth of information regarding the current state of the distribution system, notice of near-term investments, and a 15-year roadmap of potential future investments. The plan highlights Xcel Energy’s focus on customers, linking the grid investments to the expected customer benefits and new offerings. Xcel Energy notes that it intends to formally request approval for the investments and bring forward the costs and benefits for the MPUC’s approval through future IDP/grid modernization filings or as part of a general rate case.

Key Details

  • The IDP lays out the current state of distribution planning and the company’s plans for making grid investments to achieve future customer benefits
    • The distribution planning elements include:
      • Details of distribution capital budgets, capital planning processes, and distribution asset statistics
      • A discussion of the viability of Non-Wires Alternative (NWA) projects and an example analysis for a proposed feeder project
        • The analysis discussion highlighted 11 projects that met the screening criteria of project type, minimum cost, and lead time
        • The most suitable project for NWA replacement is the installation of a new feeder; however, the analysis shows a traditional cost of $2.5 million against an estimated NWA cost for solar plus storage of almost $22 million
      • A view of the current state of Distributed Energy Resources (DER), which shows relatively low penetration and further discusses current forecasting methodologies with proposed enhancements
      • An update to the hosting capacity analysis results filed concurrently in a separate docket and a description of how hosting capacity analysis is informative for DG interconnection
    • The plans for grid investments, shown in the figure below, include:
      • Near-term investments in foundational infrastructure, including Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI), the supporting Field Area Network (FAN) communication network, and Fault Location Isolation and Service Restoration (FLISR) equipment and control schemes
      • Investments in distribution planning tools to refine capabilities for DER forecasting and NWA consideration
      • Innovative existing and new pilots, including battery storage projects, and multiple electric vehicle programs, including a subscription-based residential charging program
      • Longer-term options, such as the Home Area Network (HAN), or data analytics use cases that build off the foundational elements, such as the enabling data or communications capabilities of AMI
Xcel Energy's Roadmap of Investments

Xcel Energy’s Roadmap of Investments (p. 21 of the IDP Filing)

Implications

Though it includes similar elements to California Distribution Resource Plans (DRPs) and New York Distribution System Implementation Plans (DSIPs), such as hosting capacity and non-wires alternatives, Xcel Energy’s plan in Minnesota takes a more measured approach. Their IDP focuses on building the foundational elements and piloting innovative programs and technologies for more advanced applications that proceed at the “pace of value” for its customers. The filing also includes a more robust grid modernization plan as compared to the DRPs and DSIPs filings. By moving forward with the foundational investments now, Xcel Energy is sequencing investments to build capabilities as they are needed and is setting the stage for planning and operating in an environment that may see increases in DER.

More Information

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Contributing Authors

Chris Sturgill Manager
Josh Kmiec Manager

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