task force

Background

In November 2018, NARUC’s President Nick Wagner and NASEO Board of Directors’ Chair Andrew McAllister initiated the creation of a Joint NARUC-NASEO Task Force on Comprehensive Electricity Planning. This Task Force on Comprehensive Electricity Planning will be a collaborative initiative of NARUC and NASEO to organize a professionally-facilitated workshop series over two years, providing a guided educational process for NARUC and NASEO members to develop new approaches that better align distribution system planning and resource planning processes.

Background and Need

New technology capabilities, decreasing costs, consumer preferences, and state goals are driving
significant growth in distributed energy resources (DERs) such as solar PV, batteries, electric vehicles,
microgrids, and controllable, efficient appliances and equipment. Many of these advances are due to the dedicated efforts of state energy policymakers (e.g., state energy directors and their offices, governors, legislators, public utility commissions) over many years through the development of state energy plans, incentive programs, provisions of technical assistance, and other efforts.

As these investments interact with the grid and engage utilities and other energy providers, they
increasingly also require regulatory innovation to overcome system complexities and avoid unnecessary costs to energy customers. They bring new and timely opportunities for NARUC members – in a unique and critical role – to oversee better alignment of utility resource investments, distribution planning processes, and utility/vendor roles to optimize energy supply and demand along multiple time scales. With greater involvement from colleagues in complementary state agencies (e.g., state energy offices), these efforts can be aligned with state policy goals.

Many commissions and state energy offices are already actively engaged in these areas: 37 states are
pursuing various kinds of grid modernization actions; at least 10 states have begun a process towards
formal distribution system planning; 33 states require utilities to file integrated resource plans (IRP) or an equivalent; and 42 states have a state energy plan. Public utility commissions advance these efforts
through oversight of each state’s utilities through regulatory proceedings. State energy offices are directly involved in the development of states’ integrated resource plans (IRP) in some states and manage the development of state energy plans in other states.

The potential for the collection of these planning processes to encourage wise investment decisions is
acknowledged and immense but not straightforward for many reasons, including: 1) traditionally siloed
state planning processes, 2) the complex technical nature of the energy systems, and 3) ever changing
technologies and energy service providers driving the ongoing market transformation.

With greater alignment of resource and distribution system planning, states and utilities can:

  • Ensure reliability, resilience, and efficient use of resources
  • Maximize customer and system benefits (e.g., affordability, reliability)
  • Support state policy priorities
  • Increase transparency of decisions and investments

Multiple commissions and state energy offices have recognized the value of aligning state energy planning efforts,1 but few have had the resources to actively pursue the connection points in a dedicated way over time.

The NARUC and NASEO leadership see a unique opportunity to bring thought leaders together to work on better aligning planning processes through a dedicated multi-year effort engaging our members. These state regulators and policymakers are regularly making critical decisions impacting how fast, affordable, and equitable the power sector transformation is and will be.

Over the next two years, NARUC and NASEO will provide a forum for participants from approximately 15 states to examine key planning process intersections to envision what a rational and optimized path forward could look like, while engaging in a safe space to test concepts, learn from national-caliber experts, and define and prioritize policy and technical needs. Direct participants will develop materials available to all NARUC and NASEO members to adapt and refine for use in their states.

Task Force Approach and Objectives

The Task Force on Comprehensive Electricity Planning will be a collaborative initiative of NARUC and
NASEO to organize a professionally-facilitated workshop series over two years, providing a guided
educational process for NARUC and NASEO members to develop new approaches that better align
distribution system planning and resource planning processes. The Task Force will provide space for 12 to 15 states to designate commission and state energy office participants to create innovative and visionary roadmaps using collaborative problem-solving methods that include input from regulatory stakeholders. Likely participants include states with active or anticipated grid modernization or distribution system planning proceedings or explorations.

Specifically, the Task Force will organize a series of four in-person and four remote working meetings over two years. By taking NARUC and NASEO member participants through a guided educational process, participants will have the opportunity to develop tools and roadmaps outlining state-led approaches for aligned resource and distribution system planning processes both for their states and for the benefit of all state commissions and stakeholders. The meetings will be facilitated by professionals with subject matter expertise in the topic and provide specific opportunities for input from utilities and other regulatory stakeholders.

To ensure the highest value for all NARUC and NASEO members, Task Force participants will explore and report back on key questions relevant to all regulatory commissions and state energy offices, which may include:

Core Issues

  • (How) does the status quo of resource / distribution system planning support or inhibit a reliable, least-cost power system?
  • How do resource / distribution system planning need to relate to each other? What improvements can or should be made?
  • What do the status quo and optimized planning processes look like under various permutations of market / policy structures (e.g., vertically integrated vs restructured, existing distribution system planning process vs no existing process, existing resource preference policies vs no preference policies, integrated resource planning vs wholesale market)?
  • What do Commissions and state energy offices want out of an optimized planning process? How will they know when it’s been achieved?

Challenges and Needs

  • What steps are needed to transition from the status quo to optimized processes?
  • What technical, administrative, and other barriers impede an optimized planning process? How can those barriers be addressed?
  • What gaps in data, information, and tools need to be filled to support success?

The Task Force will have approximately 15 member states (up to 45 total participants) and report directly to the NARUC Executive Committee and NASEO Board of Directors. The Task Force will be co-chaired by a NARUC Commissioner and a NASEO Energy Office Director.

With NARUC Board approval, the NARUC members of the Task Force—through the NARUC Task Force Co-Chair—may inform NARUC policy on system planning issues by offering resolutions to the NARUC Board of Directors based on the Task Force’s deliberations. Any proffered resolution from the NARUC Task Force Co-Chair will be moved by the 2nd Vice President for discussion and possible approval.

The NARUC members of the Task Force will have the opportunity to coordinate sessions at each NARUC meeting, organize educational efforts within NARUC, and act as a resource for NARUC leadership on relevant matters. The NASEO members of the Task Force will have the opportunity to coordinate sessions at NASEO meetings, organize educational efforts within NASEO, and act as a resource for NASEO leadership on relevant matters. The Task Force may also convene meetings external to NARUC and NASEO’s regular meetings each year.

The Task Force will develop and publicly release a set of tools and roadmaps that all states can use to
approach electricity system planning and design. The tools can be used in the future by states that are not currently engaged in this type of action.

Task Force Duration

Two years, beginning with the first in person working meeting of the Task Force members.

Proposed Members

The Task Force will have approximately fifteen (15) state utility commission and approximately fifteen (15) state energy office members appointed by the President of NARUC and the Chair of the NASEO Board of Directors. The NARUC President and NASEO Chair have designated Chairman Jeffrey Ackermann of the Colorado Public Utilities Commission and Dr. Laura Nelson, Governor’s Energy Advisor and Executive Director of the Utah Governor’s Office of Energy Development, as Co-Chairs of the Task Force and Public Utility Commission of Ohio’s Commissioner Beth Trombold and California Energy Commission’s Commissioner Andrew McAllister as Co-Vice Chairs of the Task Force.

Staffing

NARUC staff that will assist the Task Force are Danielle Sass Byrnett and other personnel from the
Center for Partnerships & Innovation. NASEO senior staff Rodney Sobin and colleagues will assist the
Task Force as well. Other organizations, including but not limited to the U.S. Department of Energy, may provide supplementary staff or advisors to the Task Force and/or planning team in consultation with the co-chairs and co-vice chairs.

NARUC-NASEO Memorandum of Understanding

The NARUC-NASEO Joint Task Force on Comprehensive Electricity Planning is chartered for a period of 24 months, beginning with the first in person working meeting of the Task Force members, with the
possibility of a 12-month extension. The Task Force will focus on emerging issues regarding the
alignment of distribution system planning and resource planning processes. The Task Force will assist in managing NARUC’s and NASEO’s efforts in responding to and educating members about opportunities to enhance regulatory and policy approaches and improve outcomes. The Task Force will have its first meeting in spring 2019.

Specifically, the Task Force will organize a series of four in-person working meetings over two years.
NARUC and NASEO member participants will work through a guided educational process resulting in the development of tools and roadmaps outlining state-led approaches for aligned resource and distribution system planning processes that will be available to all commissions and stakeholders in the public domain. The series will be facilitated by professionals with subject matter expertise in the topic and provide specific opportunities for input from stakeholders and regulated entities.

The Task Force will have the option of coordinating a session at each of the NARUC and NASEO meetings that occur over the course of the two-year effort to provide updates to each organization’s full
membership.

The Task Force will have approximately fifteen (15) state commissions and fifteen (15) state energy
offices represented as members, and no more than 45 members total. It will report directly to the
NARUC Executive Committee and the NASEO Board of Directors.

The NARUC Executive Committee endorsed this proposal on November 5, 2018 and recommended
Board approval of NARUC’s participation in this Task Force. Participation was approved by the NARUC
Board of Directors on November 12, 2018.

NASEO Executive Committee approval of this MOU was discussed at the NASEO Board of Directors
meeting on December 4, 2018.