|This article does not cite any references or sources. (July 2013)|
Energy planning has a number of different meanings. However, one common meaning of the term is the process of developing long-range policies to help guide the future of a local, national, regional or even the global energy system. Energy planning is often conducted within Governmental organizations but may also be carried out by large energy companies such as electric utilities or oil and gas producers. Energy planning may be carried out with input from different stakeholders drawn from government agencies, local utilities, academia and other interest groups. Energy planning is often conducted using integrated approaches that consider both the provision of energy supplies and the role of energy efficiency in reducing demands.Energy planning should always reflect the outcomes of population growth.
Energy planning has traditionally played a strong role in setting the framework for regulations in the energy sector (for example, influencing what type of power plants might be built or what prices were charged for fuels). But in the past two decades many countries have deregulated their energy systems so that the role of energy planning has been reduced, and decisions have increasingly been left to the market. This has arguably led to increased competition in the energy sector, although there is little evidence that this has translated into lower energy prices for consumers. Indeed in some cases, deregulation has led to significant concentrations of "market power" with large very profitable companies having a large influence as price setters.
This trend now seems to be reversing as concerns grow over the environmental impacts of energy consumption and production, particularly in light of the threat of global climate change, which is caused largely by emissions of greenhouse gases from the world's energy systems. Many OECD countries and some U.S. states are now moving to more closely regulate their energy systems. For example, many countries and states have been adopting targets for emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases. In light of these developments, it seems likely[according to whom?] that integrated energy planning will become increasingly important.
A new trend in energy planning known as Sustainable Energy Planning takes a more holistic approach to the problem of planning for future energy needs. It is based on a structured decision making process based on six key steps, namely:
1. Exploration of the context of the current and future situation
2. Formulation of particular problems and opportunities which need to be addressed as part of the Sustainable Energy Planning process. This could include such issues as "Peak Oil" or "Economic Recession/Depression".
3. Create a range of models to predict the likely impact of different scenarios. This traditionally would consist of mathematical modelling but is evolving to include "Soft System Methodologies" such as focus groups, peer ethnographic research, "what if" logical scenarios etc.
4. Based on the output from a wide range of modelling exercises and literature reviews, open forum discussion etc., the results are analysed and structured in an easily interpreted format.
5. The results are then interpreted in order to determine the scope, scale and likely implementation methodologies which would be required to ensure successful implementation.
6. This stage is a quality assurance process which actively interrogates each stage of the Sustainable Energy Planning process and checks if it has been carried out rigorously, without any bias and that it furthers the aims of sustainable development and does not act against them.
7. The last stage of the process is to take action. This may consist of the development, publication and implementation of a range of policies, regulations, procedures or tasks which together will help to achieve the goals of the Sustainable Energy Plan.
Designing for implementation is often carried out using "Logical Framework Analysis" which interrogates a proposed project and checks that it is completely logical, that it has no fatal errors and that appropriate contingency arrangements have been put in place to ensure that the complete project will not fail if a particular strand of the project fails.
Sustainable energy planning is particularly appropriate for communities who want to develop their own energy security, while employing best available practice in their planning processes.