FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 15, 2023
Minnesota Regulators Allow Xcel Energy to Continue Arbitrarily Limiting Capacity of its Distribution System
St. Paul, MN—Yesterday, the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission (PUC) held a hearing on a formal complaint filed by the Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA) and a group of more than 20 developers, clean energy organizations, and individuals against Xcel Energy’s Technical Planning Limit (TPL), which limits the capacity of Xcel Energy’s entire distribution system to 80% of the utility’s equipment rated capacity (regardless of actual capability, duration, or other options that could mitigate utility concerns).
The complaint alleges that Xcel's TPL violates state law, a prior commission order which did not expressly approve the company’s implementation of the TPL, and is hindering the potential growth of solar energy in Minnesota. Research by the Interstate Renewable Energy Council (IREC) estimates that the TPL is reducing Minnesota’s solar energy capacity by 2.5 to 3 gigawatts, or the equivalent of thousands of smaller distributed solar generation systems.
“The main issue is whether Xcel Energy can limit the grid’s capacity without unambiguous PUC approval,” said Curtis Zaun, MnSEIA’s Regulatory Director. “The Commission’s prior order does not expressly authorize Xcel to make such a sweeping policy decision on its own. Further, we need a robust record and Xcel has admitted that they do not have a detailed, engineering rationale for this decision. ”
The PUC dismissed the industry’s complaint, allowing Xcel Energy to continue imposing its 20% restriction across its distribution system despite concerns by both the Minnesota Department of Commerce and the Attorney General’s Office related to the regulatory uncertainty the practice creates.
“The Technical Planning Limit is impeding Minnesota’s progress towards a clean energy future,” said Logan O’Grady, MnSEIA’s Executive Director. “But, this decision goes beyond that concern alone; it raises deeper concerns that Minnesota’s regulated utilities are free to act without clear authorization from regulators and with little regard for the wishes of Minnesotans who are seeking cleaner energy options, but whose choices have been blocked by the policy decisions of powerful, self-interested monopoly utilities.”
Xcel Energy argues that the TPL, which began in March of 2022, is necessary to ensure safety and reliability in managing energy supply and demand fluctuations due to the increasing number of solar installations on its system. However, the utility admitted that no thorough engineering analysis had been conducted by the company to justify the limitation. Which is why opponents argued that this issue needs a robust record and clear PUC guidance.
“MnSEIA, our members, and our broader clean energy partners believe that the TPL is excessive and that Xcel Energy hasn’t provided sufficient technical evidence to warrant such a substantial statewide limit,” said Griffin Dooling, President of the Board of Directors at MnSEIA. “It’s disappointing that this limit will continue because, as several Commissioners, the Department of Commerce, and even Xcel Energy itself noted yesterday: the State of Minnesota has set strong clean energy goals and time is of the essence to speed the interconnection process for all clean energy technologies. Xcel should and must do more to meet this moment.”
Regulators, however, did require Xcel Energy to conduct additional meetings with stakeholder to cover the company’s justification and decision making behind the TPL. The final order is expected by the Commission in the coming months and Xcel must engage interested parties by March 1, 2024.
MnSEIA is a member-driven 501(c)(6) nonprofit that promotes and protects Minnesota’s solar and storage industries. We advocate in the state legislative and regulatory arenas in a unified and actionable way to move solar + storage forward. Find out more at https://www.mnseia.org/.
Abbi Morgan, Director of Business Development & Communications