GRE: Minnesota PUC decision on Integrated Resource Plan expected next spring

Great River Energy (GRE) on May 3 said that it has submitted its 2018-2032 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) to the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission, which is expected to issue a decision on the filing in spring 2018.

“The IRP reflects our transitioning resource portfolio toward a more flexible energy future given market changes in the upper Midwest,” Laureen Ross McCalib, director of resource planning of GRE, said in the statement. “Our preferred plan continues a path of carbon-reduction and includes the addition of carbon-free generation. It also details a strategy for environmentally-beneficial electrification by encouraging the smart use of electricity in new ways.”

In its filing, which was filed with the commission on April 28, GRE said that its portfolio continues to evolve in response to changes in the industry and the market. For instance, GRE said that it:

  • Completed negotiations with Dairyland Power Cooperative to terminate GRE’s purchase obligation for 50% of the capacity and energy from Genoa 3, which is a 379-MW coal-fired power plant in southwestern Wisconsin
  • Plans to retire the Stanton station in 2017, as it has become increasingly difficult to operate the plant economically with the continued low market prices that are expected to continue into the future. According to GRE’s website, the station is located near Stanton, N.D.; began operating in 1966; and uses about 850,000 tons of coal each year. GRE said last July that it plans to retire the plant by May 2017
  • Began using natural gas combined with coal at the Spiritwood station, lowering fuel costs and reducing carbon dioxide emissions
  • Added 250 kW of solar energy at its Maple Grove headquarters building; its members have added nearly 5 MW of solar resources throughout their service areas
  • Executed a new 300-MW wind power purchase agreement (PPA) that will begin in 2020; that project is located in south central North Dakota. GRE noted that it currently has 468 MW of wind in its portfolio

GRE said that its “preferred plan,” which includes the “Five Year Action Plan,” adds 600 MW of wind resources starting in 2029, and does not include any new fossil fuel-based generation during the planning period.

GRE said that its Five Year Action Plan includes continuing:

  • Its demand side management and demand response initiatives
  • Engagement with its members on grid modernization initiatives
  • Energy policy discussions with its members, as well as with state, regional, Midcontinent ISO (MISO), regulatory and national energy groups to help shape the future

“We are engaged with our members in grid modernization, an effort to identify new and growing technologies that will impact the transmission and distribution systems,” GRE said. “We plan to implement pilot programs around those technologies with our members. We are also facilitating carbon emission reductions by supporting electric vehicles (EV) and supporting an electric school bus fuel conversion from diesel to electricity. We are working with our members on electric thermal storage, a program which allows us to creatively store energy in water heaters owned by our members’ end users.”

GRE also noted that it will focus more of its demand response efforts on controlling for energy pricing, integrating demand response into transmission planning considerations, and enabling ancillary service functions.

GRE said that its members currently have nearly 400 MW of demand response control on its system – more than 15% of its system peak load requirements. Depending on the season, GRE said, the end uses that are involved in its demand response programs are peak shave water heating, irrigation, cycled air conditioning, as well as commercial and industrial interruptible load.

Further discussing grid modernization, GRE said that a technology roadmap has been created to illustrate the partnership necessary to make technology deployment timely and cost effective. That roadmap has these five pillars, GRE said:

  • Telecommunications infrastructure, which includes three critical components – the fiber backhaul system, the 700 MHz wireless broadband network, and the trunked mobile radio (TMR) system. Employees completed an upgrade of the critical TMR radio system from analog to digital technology in early 2017. Employees also worked to update the fiber backhaul and 700 MHz wireless broadband systems
  • Advanced metering infrastructure (AMI), which automates metering functions using communication networks and eliminates the need for field collection and on-demand polling of meters to verify an outage or restoration. By the end of 2017, about 30% of the meters on GRE’s members’ systems are expected to have advanced functionality
  • Meter data management system (MDMS), which helps monitor line losses, transformer losses and power theft, and helps to accurately bill accounts with intermittent generation. GRE implemented a new MDMS in November 2015, and in August 2016, began to see savings as a result of more accurate data reported to MISO
  • Demand response management system (DRMS), which is the analytics engine for demand response, and will help cooperatives better understand the impact of demand response, as well as control electric loads at a more granular level, and interconnect with other load control technologies
  • Energy management system (EMS) and distribution management system (DMS), which are systems of computer-aided tools to monitor, control, and optimize the performance of the generation and/or transmission system

Among other things, GRE discussed legislative and regulatory compliance, noting that in 2015, it achieved a 21% reduction in its contribution to statewide CO2 emissions from its 2005 level emissions, and that its total CO2 emissions from its generation fleet has gone down 27% over the same period.

“We expect emissions will continue to reduce through continued conservation and energy efficiency, the retirement of Stanton station, the addition of 400 MW of wind in the early 2020s, flexible operations at Coal Creek station, and co-firing Spiritwood station with natural gas,” GRE said.

About Corina Rivera-Linares 3286 Articles
Corina Rivera-Linares was TransmissionHub’s chief editor until August 2021, as well as part of the team that established TransmissionHub in 2011. Before joining TransmissionHub, Corina covered renewable energy and environmental issues, as well as transmission, generation, regulation, legislation and ISO/RTO matters at SNL Financial from 2005 to 2011. She has also covered such topics as health, politics, and education for weekly newspapers and national magazines.