As part of its 2021 Power Plan, a draft of which is expected to be released for public comments this summer, the Council is exploring issues of energy equity and justice – that is, equity in all aspects of the energy system, including its benefits, burdens, costs, and participation.
This responds to recommendations the Council staff received in 2020 from stakeholders to consider aspects of diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in the 2021 Power Plan. In past power plans, the focus has been on how energy efficiency could or should be acquired equitably; however, stakeholders requested that the Council consider equity more holistically across the work of developing the 2021 Plan.
Exploring issues of energy equity is consistent with the Northwest Power Act of 1980, the federal law that authorized the four Northwest states to create the Council. The Act directs the Council to create and periodically amend a Northwest Power Plan and stipulates, in Section 4(e)(2), that the plan “shall set forth a general scheme for implementing [energy] conservation measures and developing resources…with due consideration by the Council for (A) environmental quality, (B) compatibility with the existing regional power system, (C) protection, mitigation, and enhancement of fish and wildlife and related spawning grounds and habitat…, and (D) any other criteria which may be set forth in the plan.” The Council views energy equity as consistent with criteria A and D.
The concept is embedded in the current power plan, the Seventh Power Plan - completed in 2016, which states that energy efficiency acquisition programs should be designed so that their benefits are distributed equitably. The Seventh Plan also recommends specific analysis to identify and reach “underserved markets.” The Council reported on underserved markets in a 2018 report, Northwest Under-Served Energy Efficiency Markets Assessment.
To explore the issue for the 2021 Power Plan, the Council’s power planning staff discussed diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in power planning in a meeting of its advisory committees on power-related issues called a System Integration Forum. The goal of the Forum, conducted in February, was to have concrete, actionable suggestions that the Council could consider incorporating into the plan. About 130 people attended the Forum. The agenda, speaker biographies, meeting recordings, session work products, and other information related to the System Integration Forum is available on the Council’s website here: https://www.nwcouncil.org/meeting/sif-2021-power-plan-and-dei-february-19-2021
At the Council’s May meeting, two Power Planning Division staff members, Tina Jayaweera, manager of power planning resources, and Gillian Charles, senior policy analyst, presented seven recommended actions the staff developed from suggestions at the Forum for the Council to consider including in the 2021 Plan. These include items that both cut across various issues and are resource-specific.
The recommended actions include: 1) improving outreach and engagement from equity experts in the plan development process; 2) providing clarity in cost-effectiveness calculations; 3) considering additional benefits in the cost-effectiveness formulation for energy-efficiency; 4) recognizing more work needs to be done around cost-effectiveness formulation such as incorporating additional data to determine where gaps exist; 5) including a narrative that acknowledges equity effects of generating resources and electricity infrastructure; 6) developing best practices for integrating equity metrics in energy efficiency and demand-response program evaluations; and 7) recommending the region collaborate on best-practice guidance for ensuring utility efficiency programs are more equitable.