Why California’s recent ruling on Integration Capacity Analysis should be the path forward for all utilities

In January, the California public utility commission (CPUC) released changes to the rules that utilities need to follow regarding Integration Capacity Analysis (sometimes referred to as “hosting capacity analysis” in other states). The changes are meant to help developers wishing to site distributed energy resources (DER) such as solar PV, electric vehicles or batteries find suitable locations on the grid where the DER make the most sense in terms of grid stability.

“Integration Capacity Analysis (ICA) is a proven tool that optimizes the design of new solar installations allowing more solar to be installed. This order requires utilities to ensure it also helps optimally site electric vehicle chargers and other new load sources,” said Larry Sherwood, President and CEO of the Interstate Renewable Energy Council in a press release issued after the changes were finalized.

Read More: California’s new DER interconnection rules include hosting capacity analysis results

Indeed, a map to show developers which nodes on the grid are ripe for additional load such as EV chargers would be welcome news for many public charging companies seeking the best areas in which to put new charging stations. In addition, that same map serves as a useful tool for solar developers looking to site new projects and interconnect them to the grid easily and quickly without grid infrastructure needing to be upgraded in any way.  

We spoke with Ben Wallace, Eaton’s Vice President of Intelligent Solution Sales to get his take on the ruling.

POWERGRID: What impact will the new CPUC mandates have on future renewable interconnection projects?

Wallace: In my view, the recent California Public Utilities Commission (CPUC) requirements will make it faster and easier to identify where new generation and load can be located, accelerating the energy transition and a low-carbon future. The CPUC changes impact Integration Capacity Analysis (ICA) or hosting capacity–an essential tool for integrating new renewables, energy storage and electric vehicles (both new generation and load on the electric grid). 

California has aggressive clean energy targets and its utilities arguably have the most advanced ICA maps in the country, and they’re getting better. We at Eaton are helping utilities make it happen with grid-planning software that automates analysis and provides a much-needed granular view of current and prospective energy demand and capacity for new renewables and energy storage. And our technology 20 times faster than other commercially available solutions. 

Half of the world’s electricity is expected to come from renewable resources by 2035. (Source: McKinsey) This shift is creating an inrush of distributed energy resource (DER) interconnection requests, underscoring the importance of innovative grid planning tools like ICA software that can help automate processes for utilities and project stakeholders. 

POWERGRID: What will be the biggest challenge for investor-owned utilities striving to meet CPUC’s new mandates?

Wallace: The specific challenge with the CPUC requirements is in sharing more granular data both on DERs and grid load, like electric vehicles. The broader challenge that utilities are addressing and the CPUC recognizes is really a paradigm shift. The traditional electric grid with one-way power flow has long worked with siloed programs that address distribution, transmission and generation planning technologies. Today’s grid with bidirectional power flow requires advanced distribution planning that breaks traditional models by providing precise, integrated data for load management, DER integration and generation capacity.   

At Eaton, our Everything as a Grid approach is addressing these challenges and provides utilities with industry-first technology and analytics that yield greater insights into grid performance. ICA or hosting capacity analysis is certainly a part of that. 

POWERGRID: Looking outside of California, how are other regions in the U.S. using ICA systems to simplify the interconnection of renewables?

Traditionally, new grid-connected solar, energy storage and other DERs have required lengthy interconnection studies. Automating this analysis is a huge step forward that significantly reduces the time and cost of integrating renewables and energy storage onto the grid. This is the real value that ICA and hosting capacity software platforms provide. 

The world is becoming more electrified. The global trend for cleaner power, supported by more affordable DER technologies, has changed the distribution system landscape. No matter where you are, grid planning tools like ICA software reduces the complexity of DER integration and helps us all usher in a low-carbon future.    

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The Clarion Energy Content Team is made up of editors from various publications, including POWERGRID International, Power Engineering, Renewable Energy World, Hydro Review, Smart Energy International, and Power Engineering International. Contact the content lead for this publication at Jennifer.Runyon@ClarionEvents.com.

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