Integrated resource planning has been a fundamental part of the utility landscape for decades. Despite regulatory and technological changes that have transformed the industry, the basic purpose of integrated resource planning has remained largely unchanged. Its goal is to provide analysis-driven long-term planning that ensures sufficient resources to meet forecasted customer needs at the least cost, taking into account the variety of supply and demand resources and applicable environmental mandates. While the core purpose has not changed, integrated resource planning has clearly evolved over time.
Today, integrated resource planning reflects several key trends: 1) numerous and diverse filing requirements; 2) a focus on non-wires alternatives to traditional grid investments (NWAs) and distributed energy resources (DERs); 3) the need to weigh complex and nuanced policy questions; and 4) increased uncertainty regarding key cost drivers. These trends embody significant challenges for utilities. They may also represent an important opportunity, however, if utilities employ an approach that is comprehensive, strategic, and proactive.
This article discusses these challenging trends and key elements for transforming them into opportunities.