Equitable Adaptation Legal & Policy Toolkit

Implementing Equitable Investments in Grid Resilience

Efforts to modernize the grid provide a critical opportunity to integrate new technologies and enhance energy resilience, while also addressing considerations of equity and socioeconomic vulnerability. The high costs of investments in grid resilience are often passed on to ratepayers and must be weighed against the value of future benefits to the public. By explicitly considering and centering equity, utilities and other key players can help to address historic underinvestment, pollution burdens, and the disproportionate climate risk in frontline communities, and can work to minimize or avoid rate increases for lower-income and fixed-income ratepayers. Investments in modern grid technologies, such as advanced microgrids and automated fault isolation and recovery, can substantially decrease climate impacts on society, but investments should also be aimed at minimizing the cost burdens on frontline communities while achieving energy resilience.

Modernization strategies should be designed to support collaboration among all key decisionmaking partners. Strategies should address multiple goals, which can include improving access to low-carbon and resilient energy for all communities, enhancing hard, soft, and natural infrastructure, and embedding principles of equitable, just climate resilience into all levels of decisionmaking. Strategies can be required by utility commissions (see e.g., Electric Program Investment Charge case study) or led by a utility on its own initiative (see e.g., Modernizing the Energy Delivery System for Increased Sustainability case study).

Considerations of Equitable Investments in Grid Resilience


  • Costs for necessary grid resilience improvements nationwide are significant, so efforts should be considered to prioritize investments and ensure that the benefits and costs are equitably distributed.
  • Increasing grid reliability will help to avoid economic losses from future grid disruptions.
  • In seeking rate recovery for resilience investments, utilities should consider how to preserve affordability for lower-income and fixed-income ratepayers.


  • Better integration of local renewable energy sources will reduce carbon emissions and improve air quality.

Social /Equity

  • Rate increases should be equitably distributed and should not increase the energy cost burden for lower-income and fixed-income ratepayers.
  • Grid modernization should seek to enhance household and small business energy efficiency across all income classes so that programs lower energy bills and provide services for households and businesses that need assistance the most.


  • Fees, permits, and paperwork can hinder equitable investments in grid resilience.


  • There is a lack of regulatory standards for rapidly emerging technologies that modernize the grid.
  • Utilities may face mandates from their PUCs to make investments in grid resilience and to allow community stakeholders to intervene in utility proceedings to represent their own interests in rate-setting proceedings (e.g., NYC Participants to the Storm Hardening and Resiliency Collaborative Report).
  • Utilities may face questions about whether rate recovery is an option for helping to pay for investments in grid resilience.

Lessons Learned

  • Active investments in grid resilience are currently a priority amongst many practitioners in the energy systems space as climate change impacts increase for all.
  • With energy being such an essential resource, integrating clean energy and renewables to reduce energy costs and creating new streams of income and tax revenues would be a win-win for all parties involved.
  • Priority investments should be directed to areas facing the greatest socioeconomic risks from outages.
  • Utilities should host diverse, transparent, and inclusive engagement processes and specifically reach out to frontline communities to inform decisionmaking about grid modernization investments and any potential rate increases.
  • Partners should design equity criteria with careful consideration to ensure that the benefits of investments are equitably distributed to address the needs of customers facing the greatest socioeconomic risk to power outages. 


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