Geotargeted Distributed Clean Energy Initiative

Jenny Edwards, Josh Quinnell, Ph.D., Rabi Vandergon, Lauren Sweeney, Carl Nelson, Jon Blaufuss

Project Update

To determine the time of day and season of the typical peak usage, CEE’s researchers analyzed data from relevant substation distribution feeders. The team determined that peaks on the feeders typically occurred between 6 p.m. and 7 p.m. during the summer.

Researchers also identified a series of measures they could offer to Xcel Energy electricity customers to directly address the peak. Among these potential measures are upgrades to residential lighting and smart thermostats, as well as commercial refrigeration, lighting, and cooling. Read the full update.

Why This Research Is Needed

Geotargeting involves devising solutions that are applied in a targeted, geographic manner. This method provides Minnesota utilities with the opportunity to serve customers by using clean, distributed energy resources, such as efficiency, demand response, and distributed renewable energy to limit needed transmission and distribution infrastructure upgrades due to load growth.
In addition to deferring capital investments, geotargeting can also mitigate environmental emissions, such as greenhouse gases, mercury, and fine particulates. Traditional utility planning involves forecasting electric load growth by service area and building larger systems to supply areas where electric demand growth will eventually exceed installed capacity. However, a larger capacity grid may not always be the best or most cost-effective method to reliably meet electric demand.
This project explores geotargeting as an effective way to reduce the costs and environmental impact of the electric utility sector by determining the potential for clean, distributed energy resources to replace planned system upgrades. The project looks beyond narrowly-defined distribution systems between substations and end users and considers “non-wires solutions” such as energy efficiency for delivery at homes and businesses in areas affected by load growth.

Project Process and Expected Outcomes

In certain cases geotargeting can replace, limit, or temporarily defer the need for traditional system upgrades. However, there is currently no policy framework in Minnesota to evaluate the opportunities, risks, and benefits of these projects.
This project will conduct planning for distributed clean energy projects in two communities within Xcel Energy’s Minnesota service territory, and select at least one area to implement a pilot program. The goal is to test the viability of a geotargeting strategy to provide a reliable alternative to traditional capacity upgrades. Xcel Energy’s existing energy efficiency and demand response programs will provide the base for these efforts and will be enhanced with strategies to achieve the high participation necessary for success. The project will also consider solutions not currently used in Xcel Energy’s programs.
A final report will document lessons learned and policy recommendations, including the total potential for emissions reduction and local energy investment if a policy is adopted statewide.

This project is made possible by funding from the Legislative-Citizen Commission on Minnesota Resources (LCCMR), which is funded by Minnesota State Lottery proceeds and investment income.

Project Info

June 2017 – June 2020

To test the viability of geotargeting as a concept for utilities in Minnesota.

Non-Energy Benefits
Geotargeting solutions may reduce mercury and particulate emissions.
Utility Implementation
Results from this project will help Minnesota electric utilities evaluate the viability of geotargeting solutions within the current regulatory framework.
CEE will work with Xcel Energy to assess project sites, perform a needs assessment, identify distributed energy resource solutions, and procure distributed energy resource programs. After project completion, Xcel Energy will dispatch and operate the programs. 
Xcel Energy

Project Team

Related Links

Video brief on distrubution planning (10/2/19)