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How are utilities changing their electric generating mixes? Find out in the IRP Database

How are utilities changing their electric generating mixes? Find out in the IRP Database
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As the old saying goes, there’s nothing permanent except change. This certainly holds true for the U.S. energy landscape. It is constantly evolving and renewable energy cost declines, technology advancements, and impending power plant retirements are driving the transition.

How can we stay up-to-date on these changes? And more importantly, what role will wind energy play in the future energy mix? One effective method is tracking electric utilities’ integrated resource plans (IRP), and the AWEA Utility IRP Database is here to help keep you in-the-know about important changes.

AWEA members can download the Utility IRP Database today for details on IRPs filed in the U.S. since the beginning of 2015. Key database items include:

  • Planned wind capacity additions
  • Planned solar capacity additions
  • Other planned renewable energy additions
  • Planned natural gas additions
  • Total planned capacity additions
  • Planned coal retirements
  • Capital cost assumptions for wind, solar and natural gas
  • Levelized cost of energy (LCOE) assumptions for wind, solar and natural gas
  • Wind capacity factor assumptions

The database helps users understand which electric utilities across the country are actively planning to add renewable energy, and wind energy specifically, to their generation portfolios over the next 10 to 20 years. Users can also compare cost and performance assumptions across electric utilities, serving as an aid in IRP proceedings.

Electric utilities across the nation are planning changes to their generation portfolios through their IRP processes and are making significant infrastructure investments as a result. IRPs outline electric utilities’ resource needs 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 they generally address resource needs over a 10- to 20-year planning horizon, with updates made every two to three years.

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. And utilities continue to be a leading customer of wind power, owning or contracting three-quarters of the total wind capacity installed today. Therefore, it’s critical to ensure the fair valuation and treatment of wind power and its many benefits in IRP proceedings.

Utilities like wind power because it contributes to a diverse resource mix, 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 more than 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 reduces water consumption.

Download the Utility IRP Database today! The last database update occurred on January 10, 2019. Future database updates will occur on a quarterly basis.

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Hannah is AWEA's Senior Analyst, Industry and Data Analysis. She is focused on wind industry data and analysis, with applied GIS experience. Hannah joined AWEA in July 2014 after receiving her Master of Public Affairs (MPA) degree at the Indiana University School of Public and Environmental Affairs (SPEA), with previous positions held at the Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

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