Rappahannock Electric Cooperative (REC) has requested approval to increase its fixed access charges for residential customers (from $10 to $20) and small commercial customers (from $28 to $37). Sierra Club retained Synapse to develop testimony that establishes how these increases in fixed charges are inconsistent with fundamental ratemaking principles. In testimony before the Virginia State Corporation Commission, Melissa Whited addressed how the increases would provide inefficient prices signals, reduce customer equity, and reduce incentives for investments in distributed energy resources. Ms. Whited also recommended alternative methods REC could employ to address concerns about revenue sufficiency.
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California’s ambitious state law SB 350 aims to increase renewable energy generation and achieve “widespread transportation electrification” across the state. Pursuant to this law, California’s largest investor-owned utilities are proposing to make over $1 billion in transportation electrification investments. These investments are accompanied by new rate designs to support adoption of electric vehicles (EVs) and encourage charging in a manner that is consistent with electrical grid conditions. Synapse was retained by NRDC to evaluate the utilities’ rate design proposals for public fast-charging facilities, commercial fleets, and residential customers.
Testimony of Melissa Whited on Commercial EV Rates
Testimony of Melissa Whited on Fast Charging Infrastructure and Rates
Testimony of Melissa Whited on Residential Rates
Rebuttal Testimony of Melissa Whited on EV Rate Design
Electric Vehicles are Not Crashing the Grid
Riverkeeper retained Synapse to assess the potential impacts to energy reliability and electric power sector air emissions associated with the construction and operation of a closed-cycle cooling system as the "best technology available" (BTA) for the Indian Point nuclear power plant, in order to inform the analysis being conducted by the New York State Department of Environmental Conservation (NYSDEC) under the New York State Environmental Quality Review Act (SEQRA). Synapse found that the retirement of the Indian Point nuclear facility would result in essentially no reliability impacts and minimal air emission impacts.
Direct Testimony of Bob Fagan Regarding Air Emissions and Electric System Reliability Impacts of Closed-Cycle Cooling
Rebuttal Testimony of Bob Fagan Regarding Air Emissions and Electric System Reliability Impacts of Closed-Cycle Cooling
Surrebuttal Testimony of Bob Fagan Regarding Air Emissions and Electric System Reliability Impacts of Closed-Cycle Cooling
Synapse is providing the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel (OPC) with technical assistance and testimony in Case No. 9406 regarding Baltimore Gas and Electric Company’s (BGE) electric rate increase request to recover costs for smart grid implementation and other costs. The increase of approximately $135.2 million is intended to pay for implementation of advanced metering infrastructure and underground conduit costs in Baltimore. Synapse staff and subcontractor Nancy Brockway submitted testimony covering the benefit cost analysis of the advanced meter infrastructure investments and cyber-security/ privacy concerns associated with the implementation of advanced meter infrastructure investment across the BGE service territory.
Synapse has been retained to evaluate National Grid’s Massachusetts rate design proposals, filed as part of its 2016 rate case. In its application, the Company proposed to impose tiered customer charges on residential and small commercial customers intended to act as a proxy for a demand charge. Synapse submitted testimony that demonstrated why the Company’s proposal not only failed to improve customer equity, but would also be unnecessarily complex, difficult for customers to respond to, and would undermine price signals for energy efficiency and distributed energy resources. Specifically, Synapse conducted statistical analysis to show that the Company’s proposed proxy for a demand charge was no better of an indicator of customer demand than an energy charge, and also failed to account for customer demand diversity and the coincidence with system peak demands.
Rebuttal Testimony of Tim Woolf and Melissa Whited Regarding National Grid Rate Design Proposal
Synapse is reviewing performance incentive mechanisms for HELCO and HECO on behalf of the Division of Consumer Advocacy.
Synapse reviewed the modeling methodology used by Portland General Electric (PGE) in the development of its 2016 Draft Integrated Resource Plan. Synapse found that PGE’s methodology lacked rigor and, as such, did not sufficiently justify its portfolio selection for the draft IRP. In comments submitted on behalf of Sierra Club during a stakeholder feedback process, Synapse recommended that PGE address the flaws in the selection process by (1) conducting optimization modeling, (2) performing a probabilistic analysis, (3) replacing its unreliable metrics with standard measures, (4) providing scenario results to stakeholders, and (5) involving stakeholders in future procurement decisions.
Comments to Oregon PUC on PGE 2016 Integrated Resource Plan
Indiana Michigan Company (I&M) submitted an application to the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission seeking a certificate of public convenience and necessity to install Selective Catalytic Reduction at Rockport Power Plant Unit 2 near Rockport, Indiana. Synapse assessed the analysis conducted by American Electric Power Generating Services on behalf of I&M in support of the application. Specifically, Synapse examined if the installation of the controls would be in the interest of I&M’s ratepayers and if the proposal was consistent with regulatory requirements. On behalf of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana, Sierra Club, and Valley Watch, Dr. Jeremy Fisher submitted testimony to the Commission recommending that the Commission deny the CPCN on the basis that the Company’s analysis is outdated and Rockport 2 is not a reasonable long-term resource.
2017 annual update of South Carolina Electric & Gas' (SCE&G) avoided costs, to be used in both PURPA QF rates and for Act 236 compliance. Witness Thomas Vitolo, PhD, submitted testimony (Docket No. 2017-2-E).
Synapse provides technical and policy support to the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers. Much of the support includes full participation in the RI Energy Efficiency Collaborative. The work includes all aspects of energy efficiency program design, implementation, and review related to the Narragansett Electric programs, which are some of the most aggressive and successful efficiency programs in the US. It also includes a comprehensive analysis of the rate, bill, and participation impacts of the energy efficiency programs.
Now updated to include the Clean Power Plan and other relevant regulations, the Synapse CO2 price forecasts reflect a reasonable range of expectations regarding future efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Prudent planning requires that utilities and stakeholders take this cost into account when engaging in resource planning. Our forecast, updated annually, includes low, mid, and high case projections for CO2 prices out to 2040 based on thorough analysis of proposed federal regulatory measures, ongoing state and regional policies, the price of CO2 already being factored into federal rulemakings, recent CO2 price forecasts from utility IRPs, and policy analysis and modeling from the research community.
2015 Carbon Dioxide Price Forecast
CO2 Price Report, Spring 2014: Includes 2013 CO2 Price Forecast
2013 Carbon Dioxide Price Forecast
2012 Carbon Dioxide Price Forecast
As new, more stringent federal environmental regulations come into effect, the fleet of U.S. coal-fired power plants is becoming increasingly less economic in comparison to the alternative of electricity market purchases. Numerous industry groups, environmental advocates, and government agencies have published estimates of the U.S. coal capacity at risk of retirement. However, all of these estimates have been conservative in that they have excluded the costs of installing and operating some of the controls expected to be required for compliance with environmental regulations, and/or they have assumed a long-run carbon-emission price of zero. This study explores a more comprehensive set of assumptions, using Synapse's Coal Asset Valuation Tool (CAVT). CAVT (now on version 6.0) is a spreadsheet-based database and model that forecasts the costs for individual coal units to comply with environmental regulations, and compares these forecasts to electricity market prices. It includes cost estimates for all expected environmental retrofits along with carbon prices.
Forecasting Coal Unit Competitiveness: Coal Retirement Assessment Using Synapse Coal Asset Valuation Tool (CAVT)
Synapse provided technical and policy support for several aspects related to the NY REV Initiative. This included drafting detailed comments and reply comments on the New York Utilities' proposed Distribution System Implementation Plans, with an emphasis on ensuring that distributed energy resources are properly planned for and implemented. It also included a detailed review of NY energy efficiency activities and recommendations for how to promote the implementation of all cost-effective energy efficiency resources as part of the NY REV initiatives. This work also included technical support for estimates of avoided distribution costs at constrained locations on the grid; i.e., the "value of D."
Synapse is assisting this group of consumer and environmental advocates with their goal of reducing future transmission costs in New England. Topics will include: (a) properly accounting for energy efficiency in forecasting loads for transmission planning, (b) properly accounting for non-transmission alternatives in transmission planning, (c) participating in ISO-New England’s Strategic Initiative, and (d) providing input to the New England Regional System Plan. This work includes participating in a variety of different forums, including FERC dockets, ISO-NE stakeholder processes, NEPOOL technical committees, and discussions with a variety of New England stakeholders. The E4 Group is composed of the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, Grid Solar, Environment Northeast, Conservation Law Foundation, and Maine Industrial Energy Consumers.
Challenges for Electric System Planning
2016 NECPUC Symposium Presentation
Providing technical support regarding TVA's proposed time-varying rates.
On June 10, 2014, the Maine Public Utilities Commission issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) into the design and implementation of a methodology to determine the value of distributed solar energy in the state of Maine. To inform the inquiry, which served as the first step in designing a study mandated by legislation to support solar energy development in Maine (P.L. 2013 CH. 562), the Commission asked interested parties to respond to questions detailed in the NOI. Synapse assisted the Maine Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) in responding to the inquiry, and later in developing comments on the subsequent draft value of solar methodology issued by the PUC on October 30, 2014.
The OPA’s comments on the draft methodology include recommendations on assumptions about fuel price escalation and heat rate, and suggested modifications to the technical and economic analysis that would more closely align the methodology with best practices.
Comments of the Office of the Public Advocate on the Notice of Inquiry into the Determination of the Value of Distributed Solar Energy Generation in Maine
Report on the impacts of utility investment in developing competitive markets, particularly with respect to electric vehicle infrastructure.
A decade ago, urban-transportation activist (and one-time chronicler of nuclear power cost escalation) Charles Komanoff began programming “the Balanced Transportation Analyzer” — an Excel spreadsheet that synthesizes the volumes, costs, and interactivities among auto traffic, subways and buses, trucks and taxis in New York City. In fall 2017, the analytics team advising New York Governor Andrew Cuomo selected the “BTA” as its primary tool to score methods for designing a congestion-pricing plan. The report released in January 2018 by the governor’s Fix NYC task force has spurred vigorous debate, with transportation-reform advocates rallying around congestion pricing as the key policy measure to relieve chronic Manhattan traffic congestion and provide new funding to repair and revitalize the city’s ailing subways.
On February 15, 2018, Charlie joined Synapse for a webinar on congestion pricing and the BTA. His talk covered the intricacies of traffic modeling, his calculations of net benefits from congestion pricing, the implications of the New York congestion-pricing debate for urban transportation reform, and other potential applications of externality pricing (e.g., carbon taxes) in the United States.
Bruce Biewald, CEO/Founder of Synapse Energy Economics, moderated the discussion. This webinar is part of Synapse’s Third Thursday webinar series.
Synapse testified on behalf of the Illinois Attorney General, recommending that Ameren should consider prioritizing low-income populations when implementing voltage optimization projects.
Synapse’s Rachel Wilson provided analysis and testimony on an Avista Corporation rate case before the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission. Ms. Wilson evaluated Avista’s production cost modeling, which used the AuroraXMP model, to determine if its requested increase in power costs was reasonable. She found that Avista’s modeling methodology led to a sustained overestimate of annual power supply costs, as evidenced by the compounding of credit deferral balances in its Energy Recovery Mechanism. Ms. Wilson recommended that Avista recalibrate its modeling to allow the Energy Recovery Mechanism to function as intended—to capture the variability between modeled and actual power supply costs. She further recommended that Avista more fully explore the possibility of joining the Western Energy Imbalance Market, which is a real-time wholesale energy market in which participants can buy and sell energy when needed.
The Los Angeles City Council has mandated that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the largest municipally-run utility in the United States, analyze powering 100 percent of demand with renewable energy. To date, LADWP's efforts have been insufficient, as the utility has only published an analysis of a slight increase over current renewable energy targets and is not planning to finalize their 100 percent renewable study until 2020 at the earliest.
Food & Water Watch engaged Synapse to analyze a potential pathway to 100 percent clean energy in Los Angeles by 2030. In our study, we found that it is possible for LADWP to exclusively use renewable resources to power its system in every hour of the year. What's more, we found that under one of the clean energy pathways analyzed, the transition to 100 percent renewable energy in every hour of the year can occur at no net cost to the system. The resulting report, Clean Energy for Los Angeles, provides a roadmap for how to achieve 100 percent renewables by integrating and harnessing renewable energy more efficiently and investing in additional efficiency, storage, and demand response.
Although the report only focuses on a single city, the results are important and applicable to many other parts of the country. Los Angeles's 4 million residents make the city larger than 22 entire states, while the annual energy served by LADWP is greater than sales in 13 individual states, indicating that if this transition is possible in Los Angeles, it is feasible in other parts of the country as well.
Synapse analyzed the macroeconomic impacts of federal fuel economy standards and state zero-emission vehicle standards on the U.S. economy. Our team compared the impacts of vehicle standards set for 2017-2025 to the impacts of keeping standards at 2016 levels. Our analysis indicated that federal and state vehicle standards will result in positive employment impacts and GDP growth in both the short term and long term. Synapse released Cleaner Cars and Job Creation, a report prepared for Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, in March 2018.
The Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers engaged Synapse to review National Grid’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) pilot program. Tim Woolf and Melissa Whited filed testimony in support of National Grid’s advanced metering functionality pilot, concluding that the program could provide net benefits to customers, spur company-wide AMF in Rhode Island, and provide long-lasting improvements to Rhode Island’s power sector.
Synapse is providing the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers with technical support for the National Grid rate case. The project includes expert testimony and addresses issues related to performance incentive mechanisms, multi-year rate plans, advanced metering, rate designs, and electric vehicles.
Testimony of Tim Woolf and Melissa Whited on National Grid Rate Case
Review of the 2017 Nova Scotia Load Forecast.
Comments on NSPI Reply Evidence
Synapse reviewed New Brunswick Power's 2018/2019 General Rate Case application on behalf of the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board Staff.
For the January edition of Synapse's Third Thursday webinar series, we talked strategic electrification with Asa Hopkins, PhD, Kenji Takahashi, and Danielle Goldberg.
Dr. Hopkins led a big picture discussion on issues that come up for regions that adopt strategic electrification as a strategy for decarbonization, including what quantitative work can be done to assess the opportunity strategic electrification represents, and its impact on the electric system. He provided helpful examples drawn from Synapse's recent work analyzing strategic electrification opportunities in New York and New England for the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. Kenji Takahashi and Danielle Goldberg then got into the nitty gritty details of a specific efficiency electrification technology: cold climate heat pumps. Mr. Takahashi and Ms. Goldberg have analyzed heat pump cost-effectiveness by examining various scenarios of fuel switching from fossil fuel heating to cold climate/advanced heat pumps. This includes retrofits, early retirements and new construction for different baseline fuels.
Bruce Biewald, CEO and Founder of Synapse, moderated the discussion, which took place on January 18, 2018.
We've spent early 2018 absorbed in data recently released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). We've been analyzing numbers, creating snappy data visuals, and preparing the Synapse Electricity Snapshot 2018 (available here). In this webinar from March 16, 2018, we discuss the historical trends we found. We also look to the future by reviewing EIA's 2018 Annual Energy Outlook projections for energy use from the electric power, residential, commercial, and transportation sectors through 2050.
In typical Synapse style, we walk through the data using some of our favorite interesting graphs and charts.
Featuring: Pat Knight, Tommy Vitolo PhD | Moderator: Bruce Biewald
Synapse provided analysis and expert testimony on behalf of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy for South Carolina Electric & Gas’ (SCE&G) 2018 annual update of solar PV avoided costs under PURPA. Witness Devi Glick submitted testimony (Docket no. 2018-2-E) regarding the appropriate calculation of benefit categories associated with the value of solar calculation for PURPA QF rates and for Act 236 compliance.
Surrebuttal Testimony of Devi Glick on PSEG Fuel Costs
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