Distribution Resources Planning

A foundational policy for modernizing the grid to provide cleaner, more affordable, and more resilient power

On this page

The U.S. electric grid is in the midst of transformational change. Originally designed to transport power from remote power plants to end-use customers, our centralized grid is being challenged by new technologies. Rapidly dropping costs and technological advancements have made distributed energy resources (DER) — such as local renewables, energy storage, demand response, and energy efficiency — increasingly cost-effective solutions to meet electric system needs. Yet, few states are actively planning their distribution grids to capitalize on the growing value DER provide.

Distribution Resources Planning (DRP) establishes a comprehensive and transparent framework designed to improve distribution system planning, operations, and investment. It seeks to optimize utilization of existing electricity grid assets and new DER resources to modernize the grid while minimizing costs for ratepayers.

Building on its work driving California’s nation-leading DRP process, the Clean Coalition is now supporting the adoption of this vital policy in other states across the country.

What is Distribution Resources Planning?

DRP is a foundational policy for modernizing the grid to provide cleaner, more affordable, and more resilient power. An effective DRP effort should result in the following outcomes:

  • Hosting capacity analysis: A proactive assessment of the existing distribution grid to understand at what locations capacity exists to accommodate new DER, which makes interconnection of these resources quicker and cheaper. Grid maps, with details on available capacity down to the circuit level, are made publicly available and regularly updated.
  • Methodology to value DER: A method determined through a stakeholder process to assess the full value of DER to the utility and to the grid, with recognition that the value will likely vary depending on the location of a resource.
  • Substation-level demonstration projects: Substation-level pilot projects, proposed by utilities and approved by regulators, that deploy DER to achieve immediate ratepayer savings when compared to conventional investments in centralized generation and grid upgrades.
  • DER forecasts: Forecasted DER growth based on various scenarios, proposed by utilities and approved by regulators, that include details on expected siting at the distribution substation level and the potential impacts on distribution and transmission planning.

What are the benefits of Distribution Resources Planning?

By proactively identifying optimal locations for use of DER, DRP guides smart grid modernization investments, expands customer choice, and secures value for all energy consumers.

To achieve these important goals, DRP establishes a comprehensive and transparent framework designed to improve distribution system planning, operations, and investment. The primary desired outcomes of DRP are to:

  • Improve the safety, security, reliability, and resilience of the electricity grid, at fair and reasonable costs.
  • Optimize use of existing electricity grid assets and new DER resources to modernize the grid while minimizing total system costs for ratepayers.
  • Increase transparency of utility investments.
  • Ensure that utility investments create a flexible, resilient grid and will meet customers’ future needs.
  • Evaluate cost-effective DER alternatives to proposed investments in traditional infrastructure.
  • Enhance the inputs utilized in utility Integrated Resources Plans.
  • Guide cost-effective achievement of existing state renewable energy goals.

How the Clean Coalition can help

The Clean Coalition seeks to accelerate and support the implementation of effective DRP policies in states across the country. We support on-the-ground partners with policy expertise, model legislation, and coalition-building support.

Contact us

If you are interested in learning more about DRP and initiating this policy in your state, contact Sahm White at sahm@clean-coalition.org.

Timeline of key events in California

The Clean Coalition first drafted DRP legislative language in California in 2011. Once this language was adopted in Assembly Bill 327 in 2013, the Clean Coalition guided the California Public Utilities Commission implementation of DRP and remains a regular intervenor in the DRP proceeding.

Highlights of the Clean Coalition’s role in launching California’s DRP effort

Learn more


The rise of Distribution Resources Planning (May 17, 2018)
Distribution Resources Planning: Laying the foundation for a modern grid (January 23, 2018)
Distribution Resources Planning (June 20, 2017)

Regulatory filings

California: May 7, 2018. Comments to the CPUC protesting proposals to redact data that would support DER opportunities to provide cost effective grid services and the deferral of conventional grid investments.
California: March 14, 2018. Comments to the CPUC supporting California’s grid modernization efforts.
Colorado: February 21, 2018. Reply comments on Distribution Resources Planning in Colorado, with clarification on Hosting Capacity Analysis.
California: February 16, 2018. Comments supporting the extension of the Distribution Resources Planning proceeding.
Colorado: January 31, 2018. Opening comments to the Colorado PUC offering rules on Distribution Resources Planning.
California: January 16, 2018. Comments to the CPUC addressing Track 3 policy issues on forecasts and the Distribution Investment and Deferral Process.
Virginia: September 15, 2017. Comments to the Virginia State Corporation Commission recommending proven policies and procedures for distribution grid planning.
California: September 14, 2017. Supporting the Proposed Decision on Interconnection Capacity Analysis and locational net benefits.
California: August 7, 2017. Properly evaluating DER in Distribution Resources Planning.
California: July 10, 2017. DER growth forecast recommendations.
California: May 10, 2017. Scope and scheduling of ICA and LNBA – additional comments.
California: May 3, 2017. Scope and scheduling of ICA and LNBA.
California: July 29, 2016. Distribution Resources Plan demonstration projects.
California: May 13, 2016. Improving data access in Distribution Resources Plans.
California: December 12, 2014. Distribution Resources Plans comments on draft guidance.
California: October 6, 2014. Distribution Resources Plans reply comments.
California: September 5, 2014. Distribution Resources Plans – Responses to Order Instituting Rulemaking.

Media coverage

It’s Time for Grid Planners to Put Distributed Resources on Par with Transmission | Greentech Media (November 13, 2013)

Top photo: ARPA-E
Center graphic: Pacific Gas & Electric