Environment and Climate

Synapse helps our clients evaluate the impacts of proposed and existing state and federal environmental regulations on the electric and natural gas sectors, develop strategies and clean energy plans to meet climate policy goals across all energy sectors, assess environmental compliance forecasts and assumptions used by utilities in major regulatory filings, and identify the emissions benefits associated with investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency.

Environmental Regulations and Policy

Synapse evaluates the impacts and benefits of existing, proposed, and anticipated environmental regulations and policies. Our work in this area includes:

  • Providing technical support to legislative bodies and to city, state, and federal agencies seeking to develop or refine environmental policies and regulations
  • Assessing the potential of environmental policies to achieve emission reduction goals in the electric power, residential, commercial, industrial, and transportation sectors
  • Providing the U.S. Department of Justice with technical support and expert witness services in Clean Air Act enforcement cases
  • Evaluating policies’ impacts on electric and natural gas system reliability, consumer bills, the welfare of energy consumers, economic growth, fuel dependence, sustainability, greenhouse gas emission reductions, and the development of alternative resources (e.g., renewable energy, energy efficiency, and distributed generation)
  • Evaluating the environmental and human health benefits of reduced air emissions from fossil fuels--including from power plants and natural gas pipelines--due to environmental policies
  • Evaluating environmental compliance assumptions used by utilities in major regulatory filings
  • Developing comments for stakeholders on proposed regulations and rulemakings
  • Identifying resources and technologies for compliance with environmental regulations
  • Developing tools to provide an accurate accounting of emission reductions for compliance with specific policies
  • Assessing the environmental justice implications of policies and regulations

Carbon Emissions and Climate Policy

Synapse evaluates the impacts of proposed greenhouse gas regulations on the energy sector, quantifies greenhouse gas emissions associated with energy resource options and scenarios, and critiques and develops projections of potential carbon costs. Our work in this area includes:

  • Examining the economic impacts of proposed greenhouse gas emission standards, including impacts on employment, state and national income, and consumer utility bills
  • Providing technical support to the U.S. EPA to support its development of regulations to address fossil fuel power plants and other existing sources of carbon dioxide emissions
  • Providing technical support to state agencies. In 2016, on behalf of the Michigan Public Service Commission, Michigan Department of Environmental Quality, and Michigan Agency for Energy, Synapse conducted Michigan's Clean Power Plan compliance analysis--the first analysis of its kind done on behalf of a state.
  • Evaluating carbon emissions cost assumptions used by utilities in major regulatory filings
  • Developing forecasts of carbon prices under potential future carbon regulations
  • Researching and analyzing the lifecycle greenhouse gas emissions associated with different power generation, heating, and transportation options
  • Developing regional and national clean energy plans that stabilize and reduce greenhouse gas emissions
  • Developing tools to evaluate the impact of carbon costs on power plant retirements 
  • Evaluating the potential for electrification of the transportation, industrial, and buildings sectors to contribute toward the achievement of emission reduction goals
  • Assessing the impacts of fuel economy standards
  • Analyzing the role of rate design in the adoption of electric vehicles

Displaced Emissions

Synapse provides analysis and develops tools to identify the emissions reductions associated with investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. Accurate measurement of these reductions requires one to determine what sources of electric generation in a particular region are being displaced, or not used, because of the demand reduction or clean energy initiative. Displaced emissions calculations are required in order to:

  • Quantify and document compliance with local, state, regional, or federal air emissions constraints, or other legal requirements
  • Assure compliance with regional, local, or national standards for pollution emissions
  • Demonstrate benefits of renewable energy and energy efficiency programs to the public, funding sources, stakeholders, or regulators
  • Compare the relative merits of alternative renewable energy and energy efficiency initiatives

Synapse has developed a variety of mechanisms for evaluating emissions displaced by energy efficiency and renewable energy, from simple diagnostic metrics to regulatory tools to complex evaluation models. Our work in this area includes developing models for the Utah Energy Office, the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection, and the U.S. EPA. Most recently, Synapse developed AVERT (Avoided Emissions and Generation Tool), a free and user-friendly tool for estimating displaced emissions, for the EPA.
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