Traditionally in planning power sector investments, utilities have been focused on two metrics for success: reliability and affordability. These metrics remain important, but they do not effectively account for the climate, environmental, and human impacts of fossil fuels, which disproportionately affect marginalized communities. To address climate and equity challenges, utilities will have to transform the way they plan – ensuring that a full range of resources are considered to meet utility customers’ needs. This should include both supply- and demand-side options, as well as distributed energy resources.
One of the most important opportunities to advocate for such outcomes is via integrated resource plans, or IRPs, which regulated utilities submit to their public utility commission (PUC) to plan how they will meet consumer needs over longer time scales of 10 to 20 years. PUC processes need public input, but participation has historically been limited because of the technical and legal expertise required. Participating in Power, the product of a collaboration between RAP and the Institute of Market Transformation, aims to address that barrier. It is intended as an educational resource for local governments and other entities who are advocating for advancing clean energy and equity priorities via intervention in the IRP process.
Participating in Power describes the structure of an IRP, how modeling and demand forecasts are constructed, and the process by which portfolios of energy resources are developed, compared, and selected. It walks readers through how to read and analyze an IRP with social justice and clean energy priorities in mind, and then how to develop comments in response. The guide aims to give stakeholders an understanding of IRP modeling and the process so that they can effectively engage with PUCs, and offer alternative solutions to the traditional, fossil-fuel-based assumptions that the utility may present.