graph showing integrated planning steps

An integrated distribution system planning process provides a decision framework to enable the formulation of long-term grid-investment strategies that address policy objectives and priorities, consumers' needs, and evolution at the grid edge.

An Integrated Distribution System Planning (IDSP) process provides a decision framework for developing holistic infrastructure investment strategies for local electricity grids. The planning process involves the determination of grid system requirements that are needed to achieve reliability, resilience, safety, affordability, and other objectives, such as equity and decarbonization. The process includes the development of a technology roadmap to modernize the grid and enable the integration, utilization, and orchestration of grid-edge technologies like storage, microgrids, and electric vehicles. Given the increasing complexity of demands on grid performance, IDSP provides a platform for holistic decision-making and the formulation of staged investment strategies.

The Department intends to advance IDSP practices through guidance documents, best practices, and training for state officials and utilities. The goals are also to provide technical assistance to state energy officials and utility regulators and to improve upon the IDSP practices. 

The IDSP activity is a component of the Distribution Grid Transformation effort. Other components are:

The Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory supports the Department’s efforts in Integrated Distribution System Planning where additional materials are available.

Topic Description Date
Integrated Distribution System Planning: Principles and Approaches, Slide Deck A slide presentation showing key concepts related to integrated distribution system planning, including considerations for incorporating resilience and grid modernization into the planning process. November-23
Emerging Best Practices for Electric Utility Planning with Climate Variability: A Resource for Utilities and Regulators This report supports electric utilities and regulators to improve the climate resilience of U.S. power systems. The report focuses on best practices and examples of utility forecasting with climate change, as well as three overlapping types of electric utility planning for climate change: resource planning, asset planning, and contingency planning. The report also addresses data development and access, decision-making under deep uncertainty, regulatory considerations, and coordination between electric utilities and other organizations and governments to plan for climate variability and fund investments in resilience projects. May-23
Integrated Resilient Distribution Planning This paper describes how utilities can incorporate resilience into comprehensive plans for electric distribution systems. It discusses current and emerging best practices, as well as prioritization of utility resilience investments informed by multiple planning objectives based on customer needs, state policies, and stakeholder engagement. The process uses near- and long-term grid assessments to facilitate effective decision-making to meet distribution grid needs within financial constraints. May-22
Modern Distribution Grid Revised Volume IV: Strategy & Implementation Planning Guidebook Draft This reference document is designed to support public utility commission oversight of grid modernization plans by regulated utilities. The guidebook articulates four key concepts for distribution system planning: (1) well-articulated objectives for technology deployment roadmaps, including scope and timing requirements; (2) foundational investments to enable advanced grid capabilities; (3) a system engineering approach to inform technology choices based on functional and structural needs, aligned with objectives and consistent with grid architecture principles; and (4) a technology implementation plan that prioritizes advanced grid capabilities in order of need and considers simpler solutions initially, with more sophisticated approaches as required over time. June-20

Topic Description Date
Distribution Capacity Expansion Planning: Current Practice, Opportunities, and Decision Support This paper examines current practices in distribution system planning and identifies both gaps and opportunities for applying this practice in a more robust manner to address the increasing complexity associated with making informed electric grid investment decisions. November-22
Distribution System Planning: State Examples by Topic This report summarizes and reorganizes information in the December 2017 report by subject. It also expands and updates the topics covered, such as: vision statements, goals, and objectives; Advanced tools, including hosting capacity and locational net benefits; distribution investment plans; grid modernization plans; utility filing requirements; cost recovery mechanisms; aligning distribution system planning with other types of utility planning. May-18
State Engagement in Electric Distribution System Planning This report documents distribution system planning activities in 16 states, including eight states with statutory or regulatory requirements and four jurisdictions considering such standards. The report reviews related activities in several other states to illustrate the significant variation in approaches. Topics include state approaches to planning distribution systems and grid modernization investments, analyzing non-wires alternatives to traditional investments, identifying capacity of distribution systems to integrate distributed energy resources, and assessing the benefits of these resources by location. December-17
Summary of Electric Distribution System Analyses with a Focus on DERs This report summarizes the major types of analyses for electric distribution systems and assesses their applications and relative maturity levels, with an emphasis on analyses related to distributed energy resources. The report addresses current capabilities and gaps for both basic and advanced analytical capabilities. Analyses covered include time-series power flow, dynamic studies, volt/var optimization and reactive power, harmonics, arc flash hazard, distributed energy resource forecasting, protection coordination, and hosting capacity. April-17
Distribution system infographic from Pacific Northwest National Laboratory These diagrams illustrate utility pole components, such as wires, insulators, and transformers, as well as substation components including step-down transformers, capacitors, and voltage regulators. August-21

Topic Description Date
State Requirements for Integrated Distribution System Planning This report will summarize distribution system planning requirements in 23 states, by topic. General information and procedural requirements to be covered include planning goals and objectives, plan type, filing frequency, planning horizon, stakeholder engagement and equity, and type of commission action on filed plans. Substantive requirements to be covered include baseline information on the current state of the distribution system, forecasting loads and distributed energy resources, reliability and resilience analyses, grid needs assessment, solution identification including non-wires alternatives, hosting capacity analysis, grid modernization strategy, and coordination with other types of utility planning. The report includes links to legislation; regulatory requirements, proceedings, and orders; and filed utility plans. FY 2024
Regulatory Challenges with Cost Recovery for Grid Modernization Investments Through an examination of recent utility requests to recover grid modernization costs, and interviews with public utility commissions, this report will assess the mismatch between utilities and regulators in spending expectations for grid modernization investments. The report also will synthesize utility filing deficiencies identified in commission decisions and comments by commission staff and utility consumer advocates, as well as successful utility justifications for cost recovery. In addition, the report will identify regulatory barriers to cost recovery approval and identify potential solutions, including improved alignment of distribution system and grid modernization planning and cost recovery filings. FY 2024
Cost-Effectiveness Framework for Grid Modernization Investments This report will provide actionable guidance to utility regulators to apply and expand on the U.S. Department of Energy's framework for evaluating the cost-effectiveness of grid modernization investments, described in Volume IV of the Modern Distribution Grid series. The report will illustrate how regulators can use state policy and regulatory objectives to evaluate utility investments in grid modernization, track utilities' progress in achieving these objectives, review utility plans, and assess cost-effectiveness of grid modernization investments that support these objectives. The report also will examine the roles and responsibilities of regulators, utilities, and stakeholders in evaluating these investments. FY 2024
Guidelines for Integrated Distribution System Planning The report will provide guidelines and best practices for regulators (including the boards of municipal governments and cooperatives) for articulating requirements and expectations for integrated distribution system plans. FY 2024
Grid Planning for Vehicle Electrification The report provides a summary of best practices and approaches for integrating electric vehicle considerations into grid planning practices. This information was developed through the DER Working Group organized and managed by the Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG). FY 2024
Grid Planning for Building Electrification The report provides a summary of best practices and approaches for integrating building electrification considerations into grid planning practices. This information was developed through the DER Working Group organized and managed by the Energy Systems Integration Group (ESIG). FY 2024
Scenario Planning for Integrated Distribution System Planning The report will document and demonstrate recommended approaches for applying scenario planning in the distribution planning process, addressing uncertainty regarding future states of DER, and electrification load forecasts for meeting decarbonization targets. FY 2024
Strategic Roadmap for Distribution Operations to Enable DERs Based on focused meetings with utilities, the report will present staged strategies for maturing grid capabilities needed to manage and utilize increasing levels of DERs. FY 2024