Group pushes for more solar and storage in Minnesota resource plan


Minnesota’s Xcel Energy could save consumers money by accelerating its plans to build 3.5 GW of utility-scale PV, and allowing for 2.6 GW of distributed solar and 1.3 GW of distributed storage, according to a resource plan developed by Vibrant Clean Energy (VCE) and filed with state regulators by the Citizens Utility Board of Minnesota.

The so-called “Consumers Plan” ultimately reaches the same 3.5 GW of utility-scale solar by 2035 that Xcel proposed. However, it would start building that capacity now, rather than waiting until 2025 as in Xcel’s plan.

Distributed PV installations would reach 2.6 GW by 2035 in the Consumers Plan, paired with 1.4 GW of seven-hour distributed storage. Xcel’s plan would add 0.6 GW of distributed solar during the same timeframe, including 15 MW per year from 2026 onward. The Consumers Plan also includes 5.7 GW of wind power, more than double the amount in Xcel’s plan.

The difference in approach partly reflects VCE’s modeling, which co-optimized generation and distribution investments. The amounts of distributed solar and storage in the Consumers Plan could “defer distribution system upgrades even as the load increases due to electrification,” the technical report said.

The Minnesota Public Utilities Commission is evaluating Xcel’s preferred resource plan through a public process. The Citizens Utility Board advocates for affordable and reliable utility service and clean energy for residential and small business consumers across Minnesota.

Distributed storage?

The Consumers Plan envisions 1.4 GW of distributed storage. Xcel instead would add 2.6 GW of “firm load supporting resources,” which it also calls “firm peaking,” and which would use technology to be specified later.

The Consumers Plan also calls for “significant new transmission” in Minnesota “to connect the large buildout of wind and solar.” Much of that transmission would be added by upgrading existing transmission pathways. The plan also envisions interstate transmission buildout across 10 states.

The increased amounts of solar and wind power in the Consumers Plan, combined with storage, increased transmission, and continued use of nuclear power, enable early retirement of coal plants, eliminate the need for a proposed 800 MW gas unit, and avoid the need for new fossil units. As a result, “consumers will not be saddled with likely future stranded assets,” said VCE’s report. All totaled, the Consumers Plan projects cumulative savings for the utility of $6.45 billion by 2040.

VCE’s modeling aimed to ensure system reliability and resource adequacy by requiring a 7% load-following reserve at all times while maintaining the North American Electric Reliability Council recommended planning reserve margins. VCE conducted modeling using its WIS:dom-P model, while Xcel used the Strategist and EnCompass models.

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