Feb 18, 2021

Non-Wires Alternatives as a Path to Local Clean Energy (with appendices)

Non-wires alternatives describe a set of solutions to reduce peak electricity load in targeted locations using localized resources such as energy efficiency, demand response, solar photovoltaic generation, and energy storage. These resources reduce net peak load at a circuit or substation level to defer or eliminate the need for traditional “wires” investments in the transmission or distribution system. These solutions often require enhanced customer incentives within the target region and are cost-effective when they require lower investment than the capital cost of a traditional project.

A growing number of projects have been undertaken in the United States, but most cases focus on high-cost transmission or distribution applications. Minnesota has relatively low energy costs, a robust penetration of energy efficiency and demand response, and a strong regulatory track record to spur clean energy technology deployment through pilots and evidence-based regulation. This pilot specifically aimed to test a non-wires project in a more typical context, with the idea that non-wires alternatives could be used as a standard part of the distribution planning and investment tool kit to lower costs, increase customer benefits, and drive uptake of carbon-saving distributed energy resources.