By PUCO Office of Public Affairs
To manage the electric grid, one of the most complex machines in the world, electric utilities and system operators conduct multiple planning processes each year. Comprehensive electricity planning is simply that – applying a broad, cooperative perspective to the planning of the electric grid. This comprehensive view allows for better coordination of planning processes and increased transparency into utility investment decisions.
What must be planned for continues to change with power sources today that are far more complex than a century ago. Ohio’s grid is comprised of centralized generation resources (i.e., power plants) and distributed energy resources (DERs). The term “distributed energy” means electricity that is generated in a manner opposite of centralized generation. Generators of electricity, primarily located at individual residences and businesses, are distributed across Ohio, and connected to the electric grid. Ohio has seen continual growth in these resources due to decreasing costs of new technologies, changing customer preferences and changes in state and local policies. Utilities and system operators must include distributed resource in their decisions even though they usually have no direct control over these resources. As the number of DERs grows, comprehensive electricity planning will be essential to manage both the complexity and the opportunity these resources bring to operating the electric grid.
Data reported by Ohio’s electric distribution utilities pursuant to Chapter 4901:1-25 of the Ohio Administrative Code.
To support comprehensive electricity planning, the National Association of Regulatory Utility Commission (NARUC) and the National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO), in partnership with the United States Department of Energy (DOE), launched the Task Force on Comprehensive Electricity Planning in 2018. This two-year initiative provided states an opportunity to work together on developing new planning approaches to support an increasingly complex electric grid. Fifteen states, including Ohio, participated in the NARUC-NASEO Task Force and PUCO Commissioner Beth Trombold served as co-vice chair. The states represented different parts of the country and various models for how electricity needs are planned by regulators and purchased by customers.
On Feb. 11, 2021, the Task Force issued its report, a Blueprint for State Action. The Blueprint will help states align electricity planning processes to meet their own goals and objectives. The report provides a step-by-step approach for states to develop and implement a “planning plan” based on the experience of Task Force member states. In addition, the Task Force compiled a list of resources for states and utilities to use based on activities and experience gained across the country.
The conversation around utility planning overlaps with “grid modernization,” or the effort to bring innovative technologies to the electric grid to modernize the system and benefit its users, including end-use customers.
In 2017, the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio (PUCO) launched a comprehensive proceeding on grid modernization, which included a Distribution System Planning Workgroup (PWG). The PWG was tasked with exploring several topics around DER adoption in Ohio, and how DER adoption should be incorporated into utility forecasting and planning processes.
The final PWG Report can be found in Case No. 18-1596-EL-GRD. The insights gained from that proceeding, along with the NARUC-NASEO Task Force, will serve as the foundation for conversations about the future of electric service for Ohioans for years to come.
Disclaimer: This content is intended for educational purposes and is not intended to comment on, alter or replace actions taken by PUCO staff, attorney examiners or the Commission.