Emerging Grid Objectives and Multi-Objective Decision Planning (MOD-Plan)


Traditionally, electric grid planning balances safe, reliable, efficient, and affordable service for current and future customers. As policies, social preferences, and the threat landscape evolve, additional considerations for power system planners are emerging, including decarbonization, resilience, and equity. Renewable and clean energy goals, especially in the context of deep decarbonization strategies are changing the mix of resources on the electric grid and prompting new considerations for grid architecture. The increased frequency and severity of extreme weather events over the last two decades, coupled with cybersecurity concerns, have elevated resilience as a key system need. More recently, ensuring that disadvantaged communities are not adversely affected by grid modernization and have equal access to its benefits has motivated greater focus on equity and energy justice in grid planning. Traditional planning frameworks must now address these new planning goals of decarbonization, resilience, and energy equity, requiring new methods to be incorporated into current practices. Integrating these emerging objectives into grid planning paradigms necessitates the development of definitions, metrics, and novel measurement strategies, as well as a practical approach to permit the formulation of balanced strategies that consider the complementarity and tradeoffs between objectives. This project is a joint-lab effort led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) and Sandia National Laboratory (SNL), which focusses on advancing the analytic methods, metrics, capabilities, and tools for an improved and efficient system planning process.

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Methods are required to address emerging goals (e.g., resilience, decarbonization, and equity) in current planning processes, as well as to balance multiple objectives to reflect stakeholder priorities.

MOD-Plan efforts are rooted in the reality of grid planning (traditional integrated distribution planning and integrated resource planning), regulation, and investments, and engage a wide stakeholder community. The MOD-Plan project has three goals: a) to develop a modeling framework that permits the application of multiple emerging objectives in electric grid planning processes, b) to advance practical methods for formulating planning objectives for decarbonization, resilience, and energy equity and metrics to measure the performance of grid systems with respect to these emerging objectives, and c) to integrate the previous two milestones into an idealized final framework of distribution system for multi-objective planning.

mod plan planning objectives
MOD-Plan aims to develop a framework that applies multiple emerging objectives in grid planning processes with stakeholder roles; advance methods for objective formulation; and develop and report on metrics that can measure the performance of the grid in achieving these objectives.

Simulation Modeling

The purpose of simulation work in MOD-Plan is to identify measurable effects in underserved communities as they relate to operational change(s) that may occur in the context of grid planning and investment. The inclusion of energy equity in planning is a complex process that is not yet well explored by utilities or existing literature. Moreover, most utilities are not likely to have sufficient data and approaches to model energy equity effects. Lab-simulation offers high-level insight to utilities without expansive data and complex approaches, as well as the opportunity to validate equity in planning practice in partnership with utilities. PNNL modelers are currently working on incorporating equity planning considerations into Monte Carlo simulation methods to better understand how the inclusion of equity as an objective changes investment priorities. This work is currently leveraging the expertise and data of partner utilities.

Metrics Assessment

While traditional metrics have well-defined and established metrics to measure and assess grid performance, metrics for resilience, equity, and decarbonization lack national standardization and quantification practices. PNNL and SNL are working to inform this gap by performing a baseline assessment on existing metrics and shaping potential new metrics for grid performance with respect to these emerging objectives. Metrics are also key to MOD-Plan’s equity simulation work, as they play a role in defining the parameters of the current system (e.g., household income level to identify disadvantaged communities within a feeder), as well as the performance of the grid system in reaching the equity objective (e.g., energy burden to gauge energy costs of disadvantaged communities).

mod plan measuring methods
While there are a number of ways to measure resilience, equity, and decarbonization in the literature and in practice, there is no standard “best” practice; refining metrics is necessary to capture the nuances of these emerging objectives’ dynamics, including their co-optimization potential and tradeoffs between them.

Framework Development

Conceptual analytical frameworks for resilience, equity, and decarbonization objectives are needed to inform grid planning processes and require stakeholder involvement. PNNL and SNL are working on such frameworks to depict this iterative process: starting with the formulation of policies and goals that feed into regulatory guidance for utilities, to the formulation and prioritization of objectives in distribution system planning, to the grid performance analysis and subsequent investment road mapping, to the ultimate implementation and re-iteration of plans over time.

mod plan process

The work of MOD-Plan would not be possible without the expertise and insights of key industry partners, who have been leveraged throughout the course of the project to validate ongoing research efforts.

Mod-Plan Stakeholder Advisory Committee Roster

National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA)

National Association of State Energy Officials (NASEO)

Southern California Edison (SCE)

American Public Power Association (APPA)

New Hampshire Electric Co-op (NHEC)

Iowa State University Electric Power Research Center (ISU EpC)

Tacoma Public Utilities (City of Tacoma)


Portland General Electric (PGN)

Clean Energy States Alliance (CESA)

Seattle City Light (SCL)