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Data released May 26 by the EIA shows that March 2016 was a historically low month for coal generation in the United States. National coal generation dropped to just 72 TWh, the lowest level of monthly coal generation measured since April 1978 (see Figure 1). While before 2015 it was uncommon for natural gas generation to approach equivalent levels of coal generation, in March 2016 nearly 1.5 times as much electricity was produced from natural gas-fired generators as coal-fired generators.

On May 17, 2016, the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) published an early release of its Annual Energy Outlook (AEO) for 2016. This early release contains projections for two scenarios: a Reference case, which includes the effects of the Clean Power Plan, and a “No Clean Power Plan” case, which examines a future in which there is no Clean Power Plan. Final versions of each of these cases, along with projections for numerous other scenarios, will be available on July 7, 2016. Until then, here are some of the key highlights in the latest AEO:

Synapse families and friends gathered at the Cambridge Boat Club on Friday, May 6th to celebrate two decades of improving energy planning. In a brief but heartfelt speech, Founder and CEO Bruce Biewald thanked those in attendance for the hard work and integrity that has stewarded Synapse’s growth. Principal Associate and long-time Synapster Paul Peterson followed with a few words on how he has thrived in Synapse’s collaborative, non-bureaucratic culture.

Economy-Wide Emissions Modeling for the Real World: Conventional electricity modeling done in isolation no longer cuts it in a world that is rapidly transitioning to a new energy future. As we increasingly electrify our transportation, building heating, and other energy end uses, substantial energy and emissions will be shifted to the electric sector.

Capacity vs. Peak Demand in New EnglandThe Brayton Point coal-fired power plant will shut down for good in June 2017. Like coal plants across the country, its operators can no longer make enough money to keep it running. Now, the town of Somerset has an opportunity to influence the reuse of this sizable waterfront site.

Today’s electric system looks remarkably different than it looked 10—or even five—years ago. Coal generation is retiring at an unprecedented rate and being replaced by natural gas and renewables. The United States’ wind, solar, and geothermal electric generating capacity now equals capacities from hydroelectric and from nuclear resources. Carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions are at their lowest levels in 20 years, and both total generation and electric sales have remained essentially unchanged for 10 years.

New England’s growing dependence on natural gas has had some in the region worrying about supply constraints. In fact, concerns about natural gas supply and the impacts of proposed new pipelines prompted no fewer than three separate studies on the issue last year. In 2015, three consulting firms released separate reports for different clients analyzing the need for incremental natural gas pipeline in New England through 2030. The three distinctly different approaches to the studies have the potential to create uncertainty for those trying to compare the results.

In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s surprising and controversial decision to stay implementation of the Clean Power Plan—which limits the emission of carbon dioxide from existing power plants—here’s a bit of global context (see figure below).

On Tuesday, February 9, 2016, the Supreme Court issued a stay on EPA’s Clean Power Plan (click here to learn more about the Clean Power Plan, and click here to learn more about the expected timeline of the stay). This stay calls into question whether some states will continue to implement policies associated with the Clean Power Plan, such as increased renewables and energy efficiency.

Last night, the Supreme Court shocked many of us when it took the unprecedented step of granting a stay of the EPA’s carbon-reducing Clean Power Plan before litigation against the rule has even been heard by the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals. A stay is essentially a judicial pause button that halts the implementation of a regulation while challenges to it work their way through the court system. In doing so, the Supreme Court overruled the D.C.

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