Five Facts about Utility Plans to Power the Next Decade

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CARY, NC – December 2, 2020 – EQ Research, the national energy consulting firm known for Policy Vista™, a suite of products analyzing regulatory proposals, state legislation, integrated resource plans (IRPs), low carbon fuels, general rate cases, electric vehicle programs and policies and RPS markets, presents five facts about electric providers’ IRPs based on data gathered from its monthly subscription product, IRP as a Data Service™.

State-level clean and renewable portfolio standards (RPS) along with decreasing costs for solar, wind, and battery storage are driving the nation’s energy markets towards increasing levels of renewable energy and accelerating timelines for retiring coal-fired generation units. Twelve states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico have established policies aiming to achieve 100% clean or renewable energy by 2050 or sooner. Notably, Arizona is on the verge of adopting new Energy Rules requiring electric providers to achieve a 100% carbon emission reduction target by 2050, along with other requirements for demand-side management (DSM) and energy storage. Accordingly, some utilities are developing IRPs that reflect aggressive renewable energy resource deployment to replace coal-fired generation. Dominion Virginia, for example, is leading utilities in the planned deployment of solar photovoltaic (PV) resources over the next decade with 12,320 MWac of planned solar PV. Similarly, Pacific Gas & Electric is leading utilities in planned deployment of energy storage over the next decade with 4,473 MWac of planned energy storage, according to IRP as a Data Service™. Perhaps unsurprisingly, utilities operating in states with less ambitious or no RPS policy in place, are developing IRPs that often prioritize significant investments in natural gas resource additions. This is most apparent in the Southeast region of the United States, where Virginia is the only state with a 100% renewable portfolio standard. Utilities operating in this region have planned to deploy more than 15,000 MWac of natural gas resources through 2030.

For the clean energy industry, IRPs are valuable for identifying both tangible near-term opportunities (e.g., forthcoming competitive solicitations for clean energy resources), as well as understanding longer-term trends and potential emerging markets. EQ Research’s IRP as a Data Service™ offers the following insights into IRP requirements:

The above map reflects where IRP requirements are found across the United States. For the purposes of the Figure above, we include states where utilities file long-term planning documents that are primarily informational in nature (e.g., Florida) rather than subject to the types of contested case planning proceedings that exist in other states. New Hampshire is not shown here as a state with an IRP requirement because even though distribution utilities are required to file IRPs, they do not own generation resources.

While IRPs are clearly valuable documents, the associated regulatory oversight by a state public utilities commission or other regulatory body and stakeholder processes are crucial to ensuring electric providers’ resource planning decisions reflect the public interest. IRP requirements vary widely across states; some states have none, while others prescribe specific timelines, required analyses, special topics and reporting requirements, and level of stakeholder involvement. Currently, 31 states require electric providers to regularly file IRPs or similar planning documents.

Market regions ERCOT, NYISO, ISO-NE, and CAISO are not included in this graphic due to either a lack of available data or a lack of planned coal retirements. PJM is partially reflected based on data available from utility planning, which does not include market-driven additions.

Notably, coal-fired power plants are increasingly facing retirement prior to the end of their planned useful life. During the period of 2020-2030, utilities operating in the MISO region will retire the most coal-fired generation by far, with IRPs indicating 16,321 MWac will be retired. To compare, the region with the next most planned coal-fired generation retirements is the Southeast, where utility IRPs indicate they will retire 8,796 MWac by 2030.

Market regions ERCOT, NYISO, ISO-NE, and CAISO are not included in this graphic due to either a lack of available data or a lack of planned coal retirements. PJM is partially reflected based on data available from utility planning, which does not include market-driven additions.

As noted above, the lack of state-level policies supporting renewable energy is evident within the IRPs of utilities operating in the Southeast. While utilities in this region plan to retire more than 8,796 MWac of coal-fired generation from 2020-2030, they also plan to deploy almost twice that amount in natural gas resources (15,082 MWac) during the same period.

Finally, as the cost of renewable energy resources continues to decrease and states continue to implement ambitious RPS policies, electric providers’ planned investments in renewable energy have markedly increased from prior years. Solar PV resources and energy storage, in particular, have become significant planned investments for electric providers across the United States. The above tables depict the top five electric providers for planned solar PV deployments and energy storage by 2030 as determined by an analysis of the most recent IRP as a Data Service™ report.

About EQ Research

EQ Research provides policy research, analysis and data services to businesses active in renewables, energy efficiency, energy storage and electric vehicles. EQ Research’s areas of expertise include state regulatory policy and utility proposals, state legislation, financial incentives, local government policy, RPS and REC issues, net metering, rate design, and general rate cases. A recently launched product, IRP as a Data Service™, keeps subscribers up-to-date on utility and Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) energy procurement schedules from their IRPs. The product goes deep into energy resource planning, cutting through the noise, to get you verified planning information. Users get a detailed breakdown of each utility or CCA’s IRP, allowing for the quick identification of opportunities to bid resources. Don’t miss an exciting opportunity to visualize IRP data for more than 70 utilities and CCAs across the nation, all in one tool.

Prior to forming EQ Research, several of its analysts managed and operated the nationally recognized DSIRE project for the U.S. Department of Energy, from 2007 to 2013. EQ’s team also includes the founders of Keyes & Fox LLP, a firm of national legal experts in renewables, distributed energy resources (DERs) and low-carbon transportation fuels. Keyes & Fox attorneys have shaped state-level energy policy through appearances before more than 40 states’ public utility commissions, and through engagement with state legislatures across the country.

To gain expert insight from EQ Research or to learn more about other services offered through Policy Vista™, visit eq-research.com, call 919-238-4360 or email info@eq-research.com.