LBNL Releases Reports on Utility Planning for a Changing Grid

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recently released two reports related to utility planning efforts for future changes to the electric grid. The first, The Future of Electricity Resource Planning, is coauthored by Energy and Environmental Economics, Inc. (E3) and is the sixth report in the Lab’s Future Electric Utility Regulation series.  The report explores emerging issues and best practices related to electricity resource planning for the bulk power system.  It is based on recent resource plans from ten utilities around the country.

In addressing five areas that will affect resource planning (central-scale generation, distributed generation, demand-side resources, transmission, and uncertainty and risk management), The Future of Electricity Resource Planning responds to the following questions:

  • How are utilities, Regional Transmission Operators/Independent System Operators (RTOs/ISOs), and states currently addressing each of these areas in resource planning processes?
  • What key issues are emerging for resource planning in each area?
  • What kinds of planning practices in each area will enable the electricity industry to more proactively respond to a changing industry paradigm?
  • What are key considerations for regulators going forward?

A presentation on The Future of Electricity Resource Planning is available here.

The other report, Planning for a Distributed Disruption: Innovative Practices for Incorporating Distributed Solar into Utility Planning, addresses utility efforts to plan for customer-led grid changes.  The report focuses on distributed solar photovoltaic (PV) generation of 5 MW or less.  It addresses the fact that distributed solar PV can both impact and offset the need for new energy infrastructure.  In other words, while distributed solar PV may require transmission or distribution system upgrades, it could also act as a transmission alternative or reduce the need for new capacity.

Planning for a Distributed Disruption is based on a comparative analysis of 30 recent utility integrated resources plans (IRPs), transmission planning studies, and distribution system plans.  It reviews various approaches that utilities and transmission planning regions have used to plan for the integration of distributed solar PV generation, highlights best practices, and offers suggestions for improving planning methodologies.  The report is divided into nine sections to address the following questions:

  1. How do planners forecast future customer adoption of distributed solar PV?
  2. How do planners ensure their planning decisions make sense even if there is uncertainty in how much distributed solar PV will be adopted in the future?
  3. How do planners evaluate the potential for distributed solar PV to be proactively deployed as a resource to meet projected needs?
  4. How do planners account for the variable and uncertain nature of generation from distributed solar PV when assessing its impacts on needs or its potential value as a resource?
  5. How do planners account for the location-specific benefits and impacts of distributed solar PV and how do they predict where such projects will be located?
  6. How do planners evaluate the impact that distributed solar PV generation will have on the need for transmission and load investments?
  7. How do planners estimate the impact of distributed solar PV on avoided losses?
  8. How do planners account for the changes that may result in distributed solar PV benefits and impacts with a higher solar penetration?
  9. How do planners coordinate assumptions, scenarios, benefits, and impacts of distributed solar PV across generation, transmission, and distribution planning functions?

A presentation on Planning for a Distributed Disruption can be found here.

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