A task force assembled by the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commissioners (NARUC) and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO released a series of five modular blueprints and other tools on Thursday to aid state-level energy planning.
With financial support by the U.S. Department of Energy, the 15-state task force spent two years exploring how regulators and and policymakers can use existing planning processes to tackle current challenges such as climate change, grid resilience and rapid technological advances.
Task force leaders say states must act quickly to stay ahead of rapid change in the electric industry. A dozen states committed to immediate action based on the blueprints.
Though only 15 states and territories participated in the joint NARUC-NASEO study of potential energy planning strategies, the tools and ideas that have emerged can be used by officials from anywhere in the U.S., task force leaders said during a Thursday morning press conference.
The task force released a host of analytical tools and other materials following the online press conference, but five "roadmaps" serve as a gateway to help states "dive into relevant cohort materials." Each of the roadmaps applies to a specific group or cohort of states, organized according to the structure of markets and utilities within each state. And each roadmap potentially provides states with an "off-the-shelf" model of comprehensive electric planning, according to Beth Trombold, a commissioner from the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio.
The five plans do share some similarities, Trombold said. All five involve state policy early in the planning process, then bring in state regulatory bodies, and then call for robust stakeholder agreement, identifying points for collaboration and sharing data.
The roadmaps are not prescriptive, but provide states with an 'a la carte' array of tools to analyze grid performance, examine consumer data and identify reliability concerns associated with the increased use of distributed generation, according to Commissioner Andrew McAllister at the California Energy Commission.
All of the materials released by the task force aim to help guide officials through the energy planning process amid rapid change in the electric industry and growing pressure from consumers to address climate change, said Jeff Ackermann, a former commissioner at the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and also the task force co-chair.
"Looking at this as both a former commissioner and energy office director, what I saw is we are trying to continue to operate current processes, while also getting ahead of that process to make it better in a very dynamic and complex world," he said. "That was one of the big challenges, but the way this process was structured and the deliverables we're sharing today — we've gone through that task so the next folks can have a better time."
12 of the participating states also announced immediate steps they plan to take based on the task force blueprints, including actions such as creating dedicated forums for stakeholder input and improving the availability of study data. Maryland, one of the states to announce post-task force commitments, plans to hold a technical conference in March to identify how the roadmap might align with state distribution planning efforts.
"Facilitating a more resilient and reliable electric grid, which can withstand adverse weather events, incorporate technologies needed to allow the state to meet our climate goals, and incorporate changing customer needs; while also balancing ratepayer affordability is complex," Mary Beth Tung, director of the Maryland Energy Administration, said in a statement. "Maryland, and its partners on the Task Force have explored a broad range of options these past two years that we believe will help Maryland and other states meet that balance successfully."