The Minnesota Solar Energy Industries Association (MnSEIA) organized a group of stakeholders in the solar industry to participate in hearing recently held in docket 13-867, which concerned the planned outages affecting Xcel’s Solar Rewards Community Program.

MEI has invested over $75M into the Solar Rewards Community Program and along with others in the industry, we have been displeased with Xcel’s propensity to take our projects offline. When this happens, it not only reduces the revenue we earn from the projects, but it takes savings out of our customers’ pockets.

The below is from MnSEIA .

MnSEIA and CCSA, with the help of input from members, presented in the docket some very compelling data regarding garden downtime in Minnesota, and managed to explain a complex and technical series of events that contribute to the outages.

Commissioner Schuerger in particular was very persuaded by arguments that the outages were both unnecessary and caused by Xcel.

In the end, the Commission voted 4-0 (Chair Sieben was excused) for the following Decision Options:

  • Take no action on Xcel’s November 2, 2020 compliance report. Direct the Company to file updates on stakeholder discussions, the arc flash study, and any other technical solutions contemplated by the Company by June 1, 2021.
  • Direct Xcel to file, by September 1, 2021, a plan to reduce frequency and duration of planned outages and to make associated changes to its work practices, operating procedures, Technical Specifications Manual (TSM), business and/or other procedures necessary to begin implementing the plan immediately after filing with a target completion of no later than June 1, 2022.
  • Direct Xcel to propose a method and process, to be potentially included in its tariff for reimbursing CSG developers for lost revenues, and/or other relief, where the Commission determines that Xcel has acted in violation of tariff provisions. Direct Xcel to file its proposal by September 1, 2021 for consideration by the Commission.
  • Direct Xcel to develop a utility protocol defining the procedures and the timing to provide advanced notification to the CSG operator as soon as reasonably practicable (i.e., more than 24-48 hours) prior to CSG planned outages due to Xcel Energy System Maintenance and city, county, or state road work. Direct the Company to file the protocol by June 1, 2021.
  • The Commission hereby delegates to the Executive Secretary authority to vary time periods, establish schedules, and issue notices for additional comments in this docket as necessary.

We will know more when the Order is issued, as all of the above may turn out different in writing than what we heard verbally, and the Commission “speaks through it’s written Orders.” But the hearing last week definitely took us down the path to solving—or at least significantly mitigating—the planned outage issue. There will still be work to do in the coming months as Xcel’s proposals come out, but the industry has taken a substantial step forward through this proceeding.