An Update on Xcel’s Planned Investments in Grid Modernization

By |

In my March blog post on this topic, I went into detail on how Xcel Energy is planning its grid modernization investments. At the time of that blog post, Fresh Energy had just submitted significant comments evaluating Xcel’s second Integrated Distribution Plan (IDP), the comprehensive planning document forecasting changes on Xcel’s system and laying out the company’s investment plans for the next five to 10 years. You can read all about what was in Xcel’s IDP, what Fresh Energy was excited about, and how we are working with partners to ensure customers are protected here. In this post, I want to share with you an update on the process.

On May 29, 2020, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission made several decisions that move grid modernization forward for Xcel Energy customers. The Commission signaled support for four of the new technologies Xcel proposed in its IDP: the advanced planning tool, advanced metering infrastructure, the field area network, and integrated volt-var optimization.

The Commission “certified” the first three, which means they have determined these tools to be necessary for modernizing the grid. This certification allows Xcel to seek cost recovery for these investments from their customers more quickly than standard process, if they choose to. Should Xcel make moves to do this, Fresh Energy will get involved to ensure that the process is fair and customers are not adversely affected by bill increases. 

Thanks to the advocacy of Fresh Energy and others, Commissioners rejected Xcel’s proposal for fault location, isolation, and system restoration (FLISR) and made several changes to the distribution planning process:

  • Ensuring climate goals are taken into consideration,
  • Improving Xcel’s consideration of alternative infrastructure solutions (“non-wires alternatives”),
  • And requiring open participation in the planning process.

As these projects move forward, Fresh Energy will continue working to ensure programs maximize customer benefits, investments are made where we need them most, and grid modernization work improves equity in our electricity system.