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E&E NEWS: 5 Utility Trends Shaping Electricity's Future

Posted by Jeffrey Tomich and Rod Kuckro on Aug 20, 2019
E&E News quoted AEE's Coley Girouard in this trend piece that echoed elements of Coley's earlier Top 10 Utility Regulatory Trends here. See excerpts below and read the entire E&E story here.
The next decade's electric utility is taking shape today in the form of plans, sometimes thousands of pages, plopped into the laps of state regulators nationwide. Like snowflakes, each of these integrated resource plans (IRPs) — which outline how utilities intend to meet power demand cost-effectively — is unique. Not all states require them. And the almost three dozen states that do each has distinct requirements and processes for the plans, which look 10 to 20 years into the future.

But collectively, the IRPs provide a unique window into where power companies think the nation's electricity mix is headed. Among the trends: Electric vehicles may have little influence on power demand in the next decade; competition between natural gas and renewables is on the upswing; and battery storage could become less costly. In some locations, coal plants may shutter faster than expected.

"IRPs are very important. They're identifying utilities' preferred plans to meet their capacity needs over the long term," said Coley Girouard, who follows state planning processes for Advanced Energy Economy.

"We've seen IRPs change recently. In the past, they've focused just on traditional baseload resources and supply-side resources," he said.

The IRPs themselves don't grant authority to build or retire power plants or raise rates. Those decisions are made separately in rate cases and other regulatory proceedings.

What many of the plans do is highlight an accelerating transition to cleaner, more flexible energy resources. They also expose tensions created by that shift, especially in states with new 100% clean energy targets and in those phasing out their coal fleets.

"IRPs are working to identify the best other resources to still meet these capacity needs," such as rooftop solar, battery storage and other distributed energy resources, Girouard said.

Read the entire E&E story here to see all 5 trends....

Topics: AEE In The News