This new white paper from EPRI identifies and describes complex and large-scale challenges confronted today by electric power system planners, regulators, and other stakeholders in some regions of the United States and internationally. These challenges are expected to become more widespread in the future. The critical overarching challenge is to develop power system resource plans that will continue to guide investments that provide safe, affordable, reliable, and environmentally responsible electricity supply. These plans also need to be resilient and flexible as well as support the unprecedented pace of change occurring in the production, delivery, and use of electricity—and in the policies that govern energy use.
In particular, the paper describes how traditional electric sector resource planning tools, methods, and processes need to evolve to address key transformations occurring in the electric sector, such as integration of variable renewable (VER) and distributed energy resources (DER); multi-directional power flow; increased reliance on natural-gas-fired generation; increasing customer choice and control; evolution of the electric company regulatory and operating environments; efficient electrification of transport, heat, and other end uses; consideration of broader societal objectives such as environment, security, and sustainability; and growing stakeholder engagement. This white paper identifies key research gaps that need to be closed to address these changes more effectively.
Every region faces different circumstances, opportunities, and challenges as can be observed by the wide variation in planning approaches in use today across the United States and around the world. The importance of particular planning challenges, and the approaches best suited to address these challenges, will vary by region. The ideas communicated here are intended to provide context, understanding, and insights regardless of specific geographic location.
The exploration of these challenges is an outgrowth of the development of EPRI’s Integrated Energy Network (IEN). Electric companies, regulators, and other stakeholders can take key steps to implement the IEN by addressing the planning challenges described in this paper.