New EQ Research IRP Tool Shows Southeast Utilities Planning for Solar, Natural Gas Boom

NCSEA member, EQ Research, a North Carolina-based clean energy policy consulting firm, has compiled a comprehensive dataset tracking more than 70 utility Integrated Resource Plans (IRPs) filed across the country, called IRP as a Data Service™. IRPs are detailed planning outlooks created by utilities that demonstrate how they will meet future resource needs, typically spanning a 10 to 20-year timeframe. 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.

Tapping into IRP as a Data Service™, EQ Research analyzed planned capacity additions and retirements across 14 utilities in the Southeast to highlight the most significant opportunities for clean energy. As illustrated in the second figure seen here, Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), Florida Power and Light, and Dominion Energy aim to add the most renewable energy in the coming decades. In particular, coal retirements (totaling more than 15,000 MW) will drive a need for new resources at many utilities. Remarkably (albeit not surprisingly to many of our members!), solar is the top resource for planned future additions, with more than 25,000 MW planned over the duration of the IRPs. However, Southeast utilities continue to push for substantial natural gas additions, both combined cycle (nearly 18,000 MW) and combustion turbine “peaking” plants (more than 11,000 MW). A key area to watch in IRP filings going forward is the extent to which stand-alone and renewables-paired energy storage, among other clean energy solutions, can displace anticipated natural gas additions. To date, IRP modeling of energy storage has generally lacked sophistication (e.g., by not fully considering all potential value streams by failing to use models with sub-hourly intervals that capture both capacity and ancillary services benefits) and failed to keep up with rapidly falling energy storage costs.    

Of specific relevance to North Carolina, the most recent IRPs filed by Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC) and Duke Energy Progress (DEP) are illustrative of these broader trends, showing plans for nearly 4,300 MW in solar additions. (Note that since the respective utilities plan on a system-wide basis across both North Carolina and South Carolina, it is not easy to discern how much of a resource will be added in a specific state.) These clean energy additions were somewhat overshadowed by plans for more than 9,500 MW of new natural gas capacity. However, the North Carolina Utilities Commission ultimately declined to accept the full plans for planning purposes past 2020, directing the utilities to make a number of improvements to future IRPs. Future iterations of these IRPs using improved modeling assumptions and stakeholder input will be critical for ensuring that North Carolina utilities like DEC, DEP, and Dominion Energy are establishing and acting on resource plans that match their public clean energy and decarbonization commitments. 

EQ Research, the national energy consulting firm known for Policy Vista™, an online platform tracking and analyzing regulatory proposals, state legislation and general rate cases, announced today the launch of IRP as a Data Service™, a new monthly subscription product from EQ Research. IRP as a Data Service™ keeps users up-to-date on utility and Community Choice Aggregator (CCA) energy procurement schedules from their Integrated Resource Plans. 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 this exciting opportunity to visualize IRP data for more than 70 utilities and CCAs across the nation, all in one tool.