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.
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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.
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testimony to the Commission recommending that the Commission deny the CPCN on the basis that the Company’s analysis is outdated and Rockport 2 is not a reasonable long-term resource.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."
The National Standard Practice Manual and the Value of Energy Efficiency in New York
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
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
Synapse prepared a Technical Brief that provides an overview of benefit-cost analysis techniques for reviewing utility proposals for grid modernization investments. The Brief is written for regulators, consumer advocates, and other stakeholders who seek to determine whether grid modernization proposals are in the public interest; especially proposals for utility-facing technologies that help advance reliability, resilience, advanced metering, and the integration of distributed energy resources. The Technical Brief addresses some of the most challenging aspects of benefit-cost analysis for grid modernization, such as determining the appropriate cost-effectiveness test to use, accounting for interactive effects between grid modernization components, and accounting for qualitative benefits. Tim Woolf presented the material in a training course for consumer advocates at the meeting of National Association of Utility Consumer Advocates in November 2018. He also presented the material at the Mid-Atlantic Distribution Systems and Planning Training with the NARUC-NASEO Task Force on Comprehensive Electricity Planning on March 8, 2019.
The late January 2019 Polar Vortex weather event brought extreme temperatures to the upper Midwest through New England – the same stretch of the country where the most fossil fuels are used to heat buildings. As it becomes clear that a decarbonized electric grid is possible, “#ElectrifyEverything” has become a rallying cry for the path to transportation and building decarbonization. In this webinar, we explore the hypothetical: What if all the buildings from the Dakotas, to the Ohio River Valley, through Maine were heated with cold climate heat pumps instead? We estimate the impact on hourly peak electric loads, and we use this to tee up and discuss questions about what a cost-effective plan to decarbonize these buildings would need to address.
CEP Comments on Future of Value Stack
As a continuation of previous work, Synapse provided NS UARB with consulting services on energy efficiency issues. Specific areas where Synapse provided technical support and analysis included: rate and bill impacts, non-energy benefits, methodology to determine program incentives, and benefits of location-specific efficiency targeting.
Comments on EfficiencyOne’sJanuary 21, 2019 Locational DSM Pilot –DSMAG Update
Synapse reviewed the Energy Efficiency Plan filed by the Prince Edward Island Energy Corporation for its conformance with the provisions of the PEI Electric Power Act.
On behalf of the Sierra Club, Synapse modeled the electric system in New Mexico using the EnCompass model in both capacity expansion and production cost modes. Synapse comprehensively modeled zero-emission alternatives to a new utility-proposed gas-fired generation option intended to replace the retiring San Juan Generating Station units in New Mexico in 2023. The modeling accounts for the interconnectedness of the electric power grid in the Desert Southwest region, including detailed representation of generation units in Arizona and New Mexico (and portions of Texas and California), and aggregated treatment for resources in the rest of the West.
Synapse finds that a combination of utility-scale and small-scale solar PV, utility-scale battery storage, incremental wind resource procurements, and increased deployment of demand response will provide Public Service of New Mexico with a less-expensive, and lower-emitting alternative than its proposed gas-fired generation, while meeting all reliability requirements. Utility-scale battery storage in particular is a key part of the resource portfolio. Storage resources can be deployed incrementally to provide a firm capacity resource that can be directly controlled by the utility, charged by any grid resources, and provide valuable regulation up and down and ancillary services.
Report on the impacts of utility investment in developing competitive markets, particularly with respect to electric vehicle infrastructure.
- You wonder if the electric grid can handle the increases in electricity consumption as more consumers purchase electric vehicles
- You want to learn about good rate design for EVs
- You love nerdy webinars!
If you honked (or rang your bicycle bell), you'll want to watch our April 2018 Third Thursday webinar on electric vehicles, featuring Synapse experts Melissa Whited and Avi Allison.
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.
Avoided Energy Supply Costs in New England 2018 study materials:
- AESC 2018 Report - October Re-Release
- AESC 2018 Report - June Re-Release
- AESC 2018 Report - March 30 Release
- Click here to download the User Interfaces.
- Appendices for the AESC 2018 Report and a slide deck with study results can be found below.
For more information about the AESC study, please visit our project page.
Synapse has also conducted supplemental analysis on the avoided costs of compliance of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act. Visit here for more details.
Appendix C - AESC 2018
Appendix D - AESC 2018
Appendix J - AESC 2018
AESC 2018 Presentation of Results
Synapse testified on behalf of the Illinois Attorney General, recommending that Ameren should consider prioritizing low-income populations when implementing voltage optimization projects.
Sierra Club retained Synapse Energy Economics to analyze and comment on Arizona Public Service Company's (APS) 2018 Load Forecast Report. Synapse's analysis concluded that APS's latest report continued to fail to provide adequate justification for its projection of rapid and steady load growth in the face of a decade of flat load.
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.
Massachusetts GWSA Appendices
The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) conducted a study on benefits of residential heat pumps for space heating and water heating in five major cities in the Southwest. Kenji Takahashi of Synapse Energy Economics played a key advisory role assisting SWEEP with conducting the first major analysis of heat pumps against natural gas heating in the region. More specifically, he reviewed, advised, and offered recommendations on key assumptions and methodologies for evaluating energy, economic, and emissions impacts of heat pumps.
You can read the report on SWEEP's website.
Electric vehicles (EVs) have the potential to provide substantial benefits to society by reducing emissions while lowering both transportation fuel costs and electricity rates. Effective EV rate design is critical for ensuring that these benefits are realized. Through rate design, electric utilities are in a unique position to ensure that EVs charge in a manner that minimizes costs to the grid, while providing customers with fuel savings relative to gasoline, which helps to drive EV adoption.
On behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Synapse evaluated EV rate design at both the state and national levels. In June 2018, Synapse released Driving Transportation Electrification Forward in New York, a report examining New York utilities’ electric vehicle rate design proposals. NRDC filed this report along with comments in Docket 18-E-0206. The Synapse team then released a similar report for Pennsylvania. A national report currently in the works will provide utilities, regulators, and other stakeholders with an overview of key issues and best practices from a national perspective.
Driving Transportation Electrification Forward in Pennsylvania
In 2018 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a proposal to roll back existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for light-duty vehicles to model year 2020 levels. Under the existing CAFE and GHG standards, requirements grow increasingly stringent through model year 2025. On behalf of the California Department of Justice, Synapse evaluated the macroeconomic impacts of the proposed rollback. We found that (1) the agencies' own analysis indicated that the proposed rollback would result in job losses; (2) the proposed rollback would result in reduced vehicle sales; (3) when accounting for broader economic impacts, the proposed rollback would result in greater job losses than those predicted under the agencies' analysis; and (4) the proposed rollback would negatively impact U.S. gross domestic product.
In order to fulfill its ambitious greenhouse gas emission goals, California will need to decarbonize its buildings, which are responsible for 25 percent of the state's climate emissions. California's legislature recently passed a law requiring that the state have 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.In October, Synapse released a report (prepared on behalf of NRDC) examining the technology available for clean and efficient electric heating, the customer benefits of decarbonizing buildings, the electric grid impacts of doing so, and policy recommendations for getting there. The report particularly illuminates the importance of electric rate design to the customer economics and grid impacts of building decarbonization. California has been leading on developing electric vehicle rate designs and now has the opportunity to develop rates that work for low-emission buildings as well.
On Thursday, November 15, 2018, Synapse hosted a Third Thursday webinar discussion of these issues with Asa S. Hopkins, PhD, lead author of Decarbonization of Heating Energy Use in California Buildings, and Synapse Principal Associate Melissa Whited.
California often leads the nation in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by decreasing the use of fossil fuels. Also important—but often overlooked—is California’s role as an oil producer. While this role has declined, the state still produces about 5 percent of U.S. crude oil, or 0.5 percent of world production.
Supported by the 11th Hour Project, Synapse Energy Economics analyzed the GHG and economic impacts of reducing oil output in California. Compared with a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, the study considers a policy scenario that would end all new oil drilling in the state and ban oil production within 2500 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals to mitigate the slew of local environmental and human health impacts associated with oil extraction. Under this policy scenario, the oil cutbacks (assuming they were all gasoline) are replaced by enough new solar power to fuel an equivalent number of vehicle miles travelled using electric vehicles.
The Synapse analysis finds that the state as a whole gains about 5,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs per year under the policy scenario. Cutbacks in oil jobs are almost exactly replaced by new solar energy jobs. In addition, because electric vehicles are much cheaper to operate per mile, consumer respending of fuel savings generates about 5,000 new jobs. The policy scenario also avoids 48.4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually by 2030, worth $2.8 billion per year using the Obama administration’s estimates of the social cost of carbon.
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