A Policymaker’s Guide to Comprehensive State Energy Planning


powerlinesA comprehensive energy plan serves as the state roadmap for meeting changing energy needs; promoting eco­nomic growth; and ensuring access to affordable, diverse and reliable energy.

An effective plan is a valuable asset due to the critical role energy plays in the economic success of each state and the nation as a whole. The plan provides a vision for a state’s energy future, whether it is to grow new industries in the state, reduce energy costs, increase the resiliency of the grid or meet environmental goals. It serves as a guide for policymakers, government agencies, industry, businesses and utilities as they develop integrative energy policies that meet the plan’s goals.

Industry, businesses and investors look at a comprehensive energy plan to understand and capitalize on a state’s energy priorities. If a state lacks an energy plan—or if the energy plan does not have support from all levels of government and is not followed—investors and developers may find the environment too unpredictable. States with an energy plan that has been embraced by stakeholders on all sides are likely to provide a more stable and attractive business environment for energy-related industries.

State legislatures play a critical role in creating an energy plan by defining the planning process, the scope of the plan and stakeholder engagement process. An energy plan that results from an effective planning process will create cooperation toward common goals among the many diverse stakeholders that influence energy sup­ply, production and delivery.

Although many comprehensive energy plans have been created through executive order, when a plan is developed by legislative initiative, there is a greater opportunity to generate broad sup­port, develop a framework that complements existing policies and ensure that future legislative actions work to achieve the plan’s goals.

State legislation that requires regular review and updates of the energy plan creates flexibility and offers additional opportunities for legislative guidance. A state energy plan created through leg­islation gives the plan an added level of authority and influence, creating a broadly accepted energy framework with greater stakeholder participation. Ultimately, the legislature plays a key role in the success of a state energy plan by passing policies or programs that either support or conflict with the plan.

This guide introduces policymakers to state energy planning and explores legislative approaches to developing an effective plan. The document also investigates the reasons for and goals behind these efforts, highlighting state case studies where useful. This report was developed under the direction of the NCSL Task Force on Energy Supply, which was formed in 2009 to consider potential solutions to the nation’s energy challenges.

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