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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 that integrated energy planning will become increasingly important.

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