An integrated resource plan (IRP) outlines an electric utility’s resource needs in order to meet expected electricity demand over a long-term planning horizon. Currently, 33 states require utilities to file IRPs for review by state public utility commissions (PUC).
IRP requirements vary by state, but generally address resource needs over a 10- to 20-year planning horizon, with updates made every two to three years. Key IRP items include planned resource additions and retirements, as well as cost and performance assumptions.
With over 3,300 utilities across the country serving hundreds of millions of customers, IRPs are critical for delivering reliable, low-cost electricity to consumers. Utilities continue to be a leading customer of wind power, owning or contracting three-quarters of the total wind capacity installed today.
Utilities strive for a diverse resource mix, with wind energy acting as an anchor component for many IRPs. Speaking on the evolution of Minnesota IRPs over time, PUC Chair Nancy Lange said, “Wind is currently the most-cost effective resource … The technology performance continues to improve while the costs continue to decline.”
Some of the many ways wind power directly benefits utilities include:
Low cost: Wind’s costs have fallen by two-thirds since 2009, making it the lowest-cost source of new electric generating capacity in many parts of the country.
Price hedge: Wind energy has zero fuel costs, providing an effective hedge against both short- and long-term energy market volatility
Reliability: Xcel Energy, the main utility in Colorado, has at times satisfied over 66 percent of its demand for electricity with wind. Four states now generate over 30 percent of their electricity using wind.
Environmental Benefits: Wind power produces no carbon or air pollution and it reduces water consumption.
Therefore, it’s critical to ensure the fair valuation and treatment of wind power and its many benefits in IRP proceedings.
AWEA members can download the AWEA Utility IRP Database today for details on IRPs filed in the U.S. since the beginning of 2015. The database focuses on planned capacity additions, planned coal retirements, cost assumptions, and capacity factor assumptions.