After a thorough evaluation process, the four major utilities in Minnesota selected Anchor Power Solutions’ EnCompass model to develop resource plans that will be filed with the state commission beginning next year.
Approximately every two years, Minnesota’s electric utilities file an integrated resource plan (IRP) explaining how the utility intends to meet customers’ electric needs for a 15-year planning period. The overall goal of an IRP is for the Minnesota Public Utilities Commission to determine the general size, type, and timing of resource additions during the 15-year planning period. The Minnesota Department of Commerce (“Department”) provides objective analysis and technical assistance to the Commission, and advocates for the public interest in proceedings before the Commission, including rate cases, resource plans, and certificates of need.
IRPs, along with rate cases and certificates of need, tend to have significant participation from the public, often involve decisions regarding large amounts capital, and involve the assessment of numerous Minnesota energy policy goals such as the state’s greenhouse gas emissions reduction goals of 80% below 2005 levels by 2050 and renewable energy standards of up to 30% of retail sales.
The Need for New Software
For several years, the primary tool used by the Department and several utilities to analyze IRPs was Strategist, developed by ABB. In 2017, the Department was informed by ABB that Strategist would no longer be supported. The lack of on-going support caused concern that Strategist may eventually be open to question regarding its up-to-date functionality. Therefore, to be proactive, the Department requested the three investor-owned utilities in the state (Minnesota Power, Otter Tail Power, and Xcel Energy) to start a process to evaluate various capacity expansion models and select a potential replacement for Strategist, which the utilities could use not only for integrated resource plans but for any other utility purposes. Great River Energy, the largest generation and transmission non-profit cooperative in the state, then joined this evaluation group on a voluntary basis.
The goal of the open selection process was to acquire a new, state-of-the-art resource planning model with capabilities that the utilities’ models did not have. These functionalities include: providing more granularity for simulations, including sub-hourly dispatch; identifying hourly chronological constraints, including unit ramp rates, operational constraints, and ancillary services; and modeling distributed energy resources, demand response programs, and energy efficiency programs.
The utilities ran an open process; informing the Department and clean energy organizations such as Fresh Energy, the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, and the Clean Grid Alliance about the steps being taken and providing the ability to participate when vendors made presentations to the utilities regarding their model. In all, eleven vendors submitted bids for their software to the selection group, and four of those were selected to make presentations in Minneapolis.
As a result of the evaluation, all four utilities in the evaluation group selected Anchor Power Solutions’ EnCompass model, and will use it as part of their IRP filings in 2020 and 2021. The Department and Fresh Energy also purchased the software to review and analyze the utility filings.
Great River Energy (GRE) was the first to implement EnCompass, and chose it because of its more granular, chronological modeling representing short- to mid-term operations within the Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO). The ability of EnCompass to model renewables, storage, and demand programs was also significant since these resources will play a key role in GRE’s power supply moving forward. Another important factor was Anchor Power’s reputation for providing customer support, which was validated during the trial period.
Otter Tail Power understood that the results from the models being evaluated would probably be similar, so usability of the models was a significant factor for them. During their trial period, they found that EnCompass makes intuitive sense and is user-friendly and easy to follow.
For Xcel Energy, the use of mixed integer linear programming (MILP) for capacity expansion in EnCompass was essential for analyzing numerous bids and expansion options in the development of their multi-state IRPs. EnCompass is able to export the full complement of inputs and outputs into accessible Excel spreadsheets that can be shared with Xcel’s stakeholders and regulators, leading to greater transparency and acceptance of the modeling results.
Minnesota Power chose EnCompass for its capability to incorporate the unique characteristics of their existing renewables with their existing power supply resources while evaluating additional renewables and storage in future resource plans.
About Anchor Power Solutions
Anchor Power Solutions provides planning software and consulting services for the power industry with a focus on market price forecasting, economic transmission analysis, integrated resource planning, budgeting, and risk analysis. Anchor Power Solutions developed EnCompass Software to accomplish all these functions in a single, easy-to-use system. For a custom demonstration, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.