Synapse prepared two expert reports to be presented in annual property tax assessment cases relating to the valuation of the Byron Nuclear Power Station. The first gives a history of electricity restructuring, its effect on nuclear generation, and its impact on Illinois and the Byron station in particular. The second report rebuts the argument made by Concentric Energy Advisors that nuclear plants that are members of fleets enjoy superior historical performance due to this membership, and that the value of Byron station should thus be adjusted downward when assessing its worth to a non-fleet buyer.
Synapse and other supporting organizations—MassEnergy, Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, and the Environment Economics & Society Institute—hosted a free, one-day training program for local environmental advocates interested in expanding their technical knowledge in order to become more effective intervenors and stakeholders.
Topics covered included the history and future of New England’s electric sector; supply and demand of energy in New England; the ISO and wholesale energy markets; current electric planning in New England; resource choices; and planning for greenhouse gas compliance.
Synapse assisted the Ohio Office of Consumer Counsel with issues related to EPA’s Clean Power Plan. This work included providing consultation and analysis on the plan’s costs to Ohio consumers, allowance trading, energy efficiency as a compliance option, and the impacts of compliance pathways on bills and emissions.
Synapse supported the National Association of State Utility Consumer Advocates and its members in addressing the EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan in a manner that is cost-effective and efficient from an electricity consumer perspective.
Prior to the release of the rule, Synapse presented to NASUCA members key issues regarding the details of the proposed rule and the primary compliance options that may be available to states. Following the rule’s release, Synapse prepared a report focusing on the details of the rule as proposed. Recognizing that stakeholders have a wide range of reactions to the EPA’s Plan, the intent of the report is to be a common resource to help all of NASUCA’s members think through a broad range of potential implications of various compliance approaches to their respective consumers—whatever their individual state’s positions. Synapse presented on the findings of Implications of EPA’s Proposed “Clean Power Plan” at the 2014 NASUCA annual meeting in San Francisco, CA.
Synapse used its Clean Power Plan Planning Tool (CP3T) to perform multi-state analysis of the proposed rule to identify and explain a variety of challenges and opportunities related to multi-state compliance, including how states with dissimilar renewable technical potential, states with utilities that cross state boundaries, states with existing mechanisms for cooperation, etc., may approach regional compliance with the Clean Power Plan. Pat Knight, the lead developer of CP3T, provided a webinar for NASUCA members giving an overview of key issues surrounding the Clean Power Plan, as well as a walkthrough of CP3T’s multi-state functionality. Synapse also prepared a report presenting the results of the analysis, presented at the NASUCA 2015 Mid-Year Meeting.
As a third element of Synapse’s Clean Power Plan support to NASUCA members, Synapse prepared a report on best practices in planning for implementation of the Clean Power Plan. The report serves as a guide for consumer advocates to the logistics of developing a state implementation plan, with advice in areas such as stakeholder engagement, evaluating resource options, deciding on reasonable assumptions, identifying appropriate modeling tools, and selecting and implementing a plan.
This work was made possible by a grant from The Energy Foundation.
Best Practices in Planning for Clean Power Plan Compliance
Final Report: Implications of EPAs Proposed "Clean Power Plan"
Clean Power Plan: Key Issues for Consumers (slides)
Clean Power Plan: A Toolkit for State Compliance (slides)
Multi-State Compliance and CP3T (slides)
Comments on Best Practices Report and Multi-State Analysis (slides)
Best Practices in Clean Power Plan Planning (slides)
Multi-State Compliance with the Clean Power Plan in CP3T
Synapse prepared a series of briefs on the electric sector costs to consumers of low-emissions futures. The briefs are informed by modeling studies that investigate the costs of EPA’s Clean Power Plan, as well as a scenario in which we achieve low-cost emissions reductions even greater than those called for by the EPA.
Synapse used NREL's Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) model to compare the costs of the U.S. electric sector transitioning to a Clean Energy Future with business‐as‐usual costs. In the Clean Energy Future, renewables grow rapidly to reach 70 percent of all generation by 2040, including nearly 200 GW of rooftop solar panels. Electricity sales are 25 percent lower than business-as-usual in 2040 as a result of savings from energy efficiency measures and standards, as well as demand response programs that pay participating consumers to curtail their energy use at times of peak demand. All coal-fired units built before 2005 are retired by 2040. This results in carbon dioxide emissions 84 percent lower than business-as-usual levels in 2040. Synapse found that consumers can save $41 billion in the year 2040 as compared to business as usual if states pursue these clean energy options.
The briefs and the associated background reports can be found below, along with recordings of webinars presenting the results.
Please note: Earlier versions of the publications found below reported 80-year lifetimes for nuclear units in both the reference and Clean Energy Future scenarios. In this analysis, nuclear power plants are actually assumed to retire after 60 years, after receiving one license extension from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission.
July 28 Webinar
September 3 Webinar
Clean Energy Future Technical Review: Brief #1 Background Report
Lower Costs Low Emissions Errata
Brief #2: Clean Power Means Lower Bills for Consumers
Bill Savings in a Clean Energy Future: Brief #2 Background Report
Bill Savings in a Clean Energy Future (July 28 Webinar Slides)
Understanding Clean Power Plan Compliance Paths
Brief #3: How Clean Power Will Save Us Money in the Long Run
Bill Savings in a Clean Energy Future, Part 2: Clean Power Plan Final Rule Update
Final Clean Power Plan: Modeling Costs to Consumers (September 3 webinar slides)
Synapse critiqued industry claims that a small, sensible change in Food and Drug Administration (FDA) regulations will add billions of dollars to the costs of prescription drugs. Currently, generic drug producers are required to use exactly the same label and warnings as the brand-name version of the same drug; the Supreme Court has held that, as a result, the generic producers cannot be held liable for failure to warn their customers of known drug hazards if the warnings do not appear on the brand-name label. Generic drugs account for most prescriptions filled in the U.S., and brand-name production often ceases when generics enter the market. This often means that the brand-name label, and hence the identical generic labels, are no longer updated when new information is discovered about drug hazards.
FDA proposes to change its rules to allow generic drug producers to update their own labels. The drug industry claims this will cause huge increases in the cost of generic drugs. At the request of the American Association for Justice (AAJ, formerly the American Trial Lawyers Association), Synapse evaluated the costs and benefits of generic drug regulation, and critiqued industry arguments against the FDA rule change.
A key benefit of renewable energy is that electricity generated from new renewable resources displaces electricity generated from other types of power plants. In doing so, renewables reduce the consumption of fossil fuel and production of fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions. In the Clean Power Plan originally proposed by EPA in June 2014, this effect was ignored when setting emissions targets for states: EPA’s formula omitted this effect. In the final version of the rule, released August 3, states’ targets do account for emissions displaced by renewable generation.
As part of our ongoing series of webinars on EPA’s Clean Power Plan, Synapse hosted a webinar on how displacement occurs within the electric power system, and what this means for final targets set by EPA as well as states’ compliance with the rule. Panelists included authors of the Synapse report Air Emissions Displacement by Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a survey of evidence that renewable resources and energy efficiency have indeed displaced fossil fuel resources connected to the grid.
Synapse reviewed the incorporation of end-use components into the Nova Scotia load forecasting modeling.
Synapse helped the Maryland Office of Peoples Counsel evaluate five categories of metrics for smart grid initiatives proposed by BG&E and PEPCO: reductions in energy prices, avoided capacity costs and reductions in capacity prices as a result of reductions in energy use enabled by smart grid initiatives such as peak time rebates (PTR), and reports to customers on their energy usage, and Conservation Voltage Reduction.
Sierra Club retained Synapse to evaluate Kansas City Power & Light’s economic justification for environmental retrofits at the La Cygne Generating Station, for which KCP&L is requesting capital recovery in a case before the Missouri Public Service Commission. The retrofits for La Cygne, which is on the Kansas/Missouri border, were pre-approved by the Kansas Corporation Commission in 2011. After reviewing KCP&L’s original application, modeling files and associated work papers, the monthly status reports on the La Cygne environmental retrofits, and other materials, Synapse found that the original analysis of the retrofits was imprudent and that market conditions have changes significantly in the electric sector in 2011 and 2012, warranting a reevaluation of that analysis.
Surrebuttal Testimony of Rachel Wilson on the Prudence of Environmental Retrofits at KCP&L La Cygne Generating Station
The widely cited FUND model of climate economics estimates that climate change will have less serious impacts, and that the optimal policy is to do less, than implied by many other analyses. Synapse's Frank Ackerman together with subcontractor Charles Munitz explored the FUND model, testing combinations of inputs that may illuminate the sources of FUND's distinct forecasts.
Synapse worked with REMI to conduct a national analysis of a fee-and-dividend carbon policy. Synapse used the ReEDS model at the state level in order to assist REMI in a macroeconomic analysis of the impacts of such a policy. Synapse defined modeling scenarios and assumptions with input from REMI; performed five model runs; and provided generation, capacity, and emissions outputs that were used as inputs to the REMI model.
On behalf of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), Synapse performed an analysis of the long-standing problem of disappearing coal jobs in eastern Kentucky. We then examined options for alternative employment based on six possible growth industries identified by MACED: energy efficiency, local food production, health care, sustainable forestry and wood products, tourism, and environmental remediation. Synapse developed scenarios for growth, based on the regional potential for expansion and the estimated costs and potential of each industry. We completed the technical analysis using IMPLAN, a well-known economic impact model. Specifically, we modeled a scenario that creates enough new jobs in these growth areas by 2030 to replace half of the remaining coal jobs and also bring the region’s unemployment levels down to the national average. The project received generous support from the Environment, Economics, and Society Institute (EESI).
Synapse worked with Meister Consulting Group to analyze the Clean Energy Plan of Lincoln Electric System (LES), the customer-owner municipal utility for the city of Lincoln, Nebraska, on behalf of Sierra Club. Historically, LES has generated about 85 percent of its electricity from coal-fired power plants. Synapse and Meister used LES’s Clean Energy Plan to develop a set of scenarios examining the bulk power costs (including costs of complying with upcoming environmental regulations) and monthly bill impacts of LES maintaining its coal-focused status quo. The project team also examined alternatives in which LES pursues expanded renewable energy PPAs.
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) retained Synapse to conduct a low demand modeling analysis. The purpose of the modeling analysis was to consider various gas demand scenarios and to evaluate a range of solutions to meet Massachusetts’ short- and long-term resource needs, considering greenhouse gas reductions, economic costs and benefits, and system reliability.
New England’s energy infrastructure has become increasingly stressed due to various market conditions, leading to near-term supply inadequacy and cost impacts, especially during winter months. DOER sought to compare a range of energy solutions considering greenhouse gas reductions, economic cost and benefits, and system reliability to meet Massachusetts’ short- and long-term energy needs. As such, DOER retained Synapse to evaluate varying solutions for meeting Massachusetts’ energy needs while striking a balance between reliability, cost, and the environment.
As part of the modeling analysis process, Synapse and DOER solicited stakeholder input and feedback at several key junctures. Raab Associates, Ltd. worked with Synapse and took the lead on the stakeholder engagement process. All materials from stakeholder meetings—including notes, slides, and agendas—are made available on this page.
October 15 Stakeholder Meeting Slides
October 15 Stakeholder Summary Notes
October 15 Stakeholder Comments
October 30 Stakeholder Meeting Agenda
October 30 Stakeholder Meeting Slides
Feasibility Study for Low Gas Demand Analysis
October 30 Stakeholder Summary Notes
October 30 Stakeholder Comments
December 18 Stakeholder Meeting Agenda
December 18 Stakeholder Meeting Slides - Updated December 19
December 18 Stakeholder Meeting Slides - Updated January 7
Analysis Workbook: Gas Model (Excel) (updated January 7)
Analysis Workbook: Supply Curve - High Gas (Excel) (updated January 7)
Analysis Workbook: Supply Curve - Low Gas (Excel) (updated January 7)
Analysis Workbook: Supply Curve - Ref Gas (Excel) (updated January 7)
December 18 Stakeholder Comments
December 18 Stakeholder Summary Notes
Massachusetts Low Demand Final Report
Sierra Club retained Synapse to review Oklahoma Gas & Electric’s application before the Oklahoma Corporation Commission seeking authorization of a plan to comply with the Clean Air Act and to modernize its Mustang plant, and to recover costs for both projects. The filing requested approval of retrofits on Sooner units 1 & 2, conversion of Muskogee units 4 & 5 to natural gas, and construction of new natural gas combustion turbines to replace steam units at Mustang.
Synapse expert witnesses Tyler Comings, Jeremy Fisher, Rachel Wilson submitted direct testimony in this proceeding. Mr. Comings’ testimony focused on the reasonableness of the assumptions used in the Company’s supporting analysis, and how those assumptions impact the net present value of the proposed action. Dr. Fisher discussed the Company’s planning methodology and compared it with best practices in resource planning. Ms. Wilson evaluated the PROMOD and PCI Gentrader modeling performed by the Company and presented the results of her own Gentrader modeling analysis.
The witnesses’ analyses showed that OG&E’s preferred option only advantaged ratepayers in fringe cases, and not at all under reasonable expectations about the future. In December 2015, the Commission denied the Company's application.
Direct Testimony of Jeremy Fisher Comparing the Modeling Performed by Oklahoma Gas & Electric against Best Practices in Resource Planning
Direct Testimony of Rachel Wilson Evaluating the Modeling Performed by Oklahoma Gas & Electric and Presenting Results of Independent Modeling Analysis
Rebuttal Testimony of Tyler Comings Regarding Assumptions in Analysis Supporting OGE Request for Authorization and Cost Recovery of Clean Air Compliance Plan and Mustang Modernization
Rebuttal Testimony of Jeremy Fisher Regarding Oklahoma Gas and Electric Plan to Comply with the Federal Clean Air Act
In April 2008, Brockton Power Company filed a Major Comprehensive Plan Application (MCPA) for a 350‐megawatt combined cycle fossil fuel-fired electric generating facility in Brockton, Massachusetts. After the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) issued its conditional approval of the MCPA, residents of Brockton and surrounding areas appealed the permit, arguing that the power plant and DEP had failed to demonstrate that the benefits outweigh the burdens, as required by Massachusetts law. Synapse reviewed Brockton Power’s cost-benefit analyses, Economic Development Research Group, Inc.’s economic assessment, and DEP’s cost-benefit analyses of the proposed project. Synapse submitted direct testimony to the DEP presenting the results of this review and explaining the appropriate way to assess the economic impacts of a large industrial project such as an electric generating facility.
Supplemental Testimony of Elizabeth A. Stanton on the Economic Analyses of a Proposed Brockton Power Company Generating Facility
On behalf of a coalition of environmental non-governmental organizations, Synapse reviewed PacifiCorp’s use of the System Optimizer model in the development of its 2015 integrated resource plan. In addition to evaluating PacifiCorp’s inputs and configuration choices, Synapse conducted several independent sensitivity scenarios to demonstrate an approach to planning that is more flexible, more transparent, and better optimizes decisions in the face of planning constraints faced by PacifiCorp. Synapse assessed how economic unit retirements could be used to help PacifiCorp states reach Clean Power Plan compliance. Whereas PacifiCorp decided which power plants to force to retire in the model based on a separate analysis, Synapse allowed System Optimizer to determine which units to retire in order to find a least-cost plan. Synapse also tested the PacifiCorp system against likely regional haze compliance requirements and sensitivities to renewable cost assumptions.
On behalf of Sierra Club, Synapse reviewed Indianapolis Power & Light Company's analysis of various retrofits at the Petersburg coal plant in light of additional environmental compliance requirements.
Synapse, the Labor Network for Sustainability, and 350.org prepared a report that lays out a strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050, and refutes claims that achieving these targets will threaten jobs and the U.S. economy. In fact, analysis suggests that the plan will save $78 billion in costs of electricity, heating, and transportation from now through 2050 and will create more than 500,000 jobs per year compared to business as usual. By expanding renewable energy and energy efficiency, phasing out all coal-fired power by 2050, and decreasing natural gas capacity, along with modest changes in other sectors, the United States could reach or surpass the 80 percent reduction target while creating new jobs and saving money.
The series of published reports can be found at http://climatejobs.labor4sustainability.org/.
The Clean Energy Future: Technical Appendix
Synapse Energy Economics conducted an analysis of market power in New England for NECPUC. The report “Horizontal Market Power in New England Electricity Markets: Simulation Results and a Review of NEPOOL’s Analysis” was filed in July 1997 as part of NECPUC’s comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission on market pricing in New England. Project completed in July 1997.
Horizontal Market Power in New England Electricity Markets: Simulation Results and a Review of NEPOOL’s Analysis - Appendix B, Data Assumptions for Modeling the New England Electricity Market
Synapse conducted an economic analysis of a proposed 1,000 MW natural gas combined-cycle power plant. The results were presented in the testimony of Bruce Biewald before the Mississippi Public Service Commission in Docket No. 97-UA-496. Testimony filed in November 1997.
Synapse Energy Economics and Resource Insight evaluated the market power implications of the proposed merger of Allegheny Power System and Duquesne Light Company. The results were presented in the testimony of Bruce Biewald before the Maryland Public Service Commission. Project completed in 1997.
Synapse conducted a behavioral modeling analysis of electricity market power in New York City given transmission constraints. Bruce Biewald testified on behalf of the City in ConEd’s restructuring docket. Synapse reviewed the market power analysis conducted by Dr. Hieronymus for ConEd. Testimony filed in April 1997.
Synapse drafted comments on the Energy Information Administration’s notice regarding the continued availability of electric industry data. Synapse also provided technical support in an on-going effort to negotiate multi-party recommendations to EIA on data collection and confidentiality. Project completed in August 1998.
Synapse and a team of subcontractors developed projections of electricity and natural gas costs that would be avoided due to reductions in electricity and natural gas use resulting from improvements in energy efficiency. The 2018 report provides projections of avoided costs of electricity and natural gas by year from 2018 through 2035 with extrapolated values for another 15 years. In addition to projecting the costs of energy and capacity avoided directly by program participants, the report provides estimates of the Demand Reduction Induced Price Effect (DRIPE) of efficiency programs on wholesale market prices for electric energy, electric capacity, and natural gas. The report also provides a projection of avoided costs of fuel oil and other fuels, non-embedded environmental costs associated with emissions of CO2, avoided costs of transmission and distribution, and the value of reliability. The 2018 AESC study was sponsored by a group representing all of the major electric and gas utilities in New England as well as efficiency program administrators, energy offices, regulators, and advocates. Synapse conducted prior AESC studies in 2007, 2009, 2011, and 2013.
Visit our AESC 2018 Materials page to download the AESC 2018 report appendices, user interfaces, and a slide deck on the study findings.
Synapse has also conducted supplemental analysis on the avoided costs of compliance of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act. Visit here for more details.
Avoided Energy Supply Components in New England: 2018 Report (June Re-Release)
Avoided Energy Supply Components in New England: 2018 Report (March 30 Release)
Avoided Energy Supply Costs in New England: 2013 Report
Avoided Energy Supply Costs in New England: 2011 Report
Avoided Energy Supply Costs in New England: 2009 Report
Avoided Energy Supply Costs: 2007 Final Report
Affidavit Regarding the Avoided Energy Supply Cost 2011 Report
Highlights of AESC 2011 Report: Presentation to the Vermont Public Service Board
Highlights of AESC 2011 Report: Presentation to Efficiency Maine Trust
Highlights of 2009 AESC Report: Presentation to the Vermont Public Service Board
Electricity Cost Highlights of Avoided Energy Supply Costs in New England 2007 Final Report
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’s Excel-based tool estimates states’ electric-sector costs and benefits of complying with the EPA’s “111(d)” Carbon Pollution Guidelines for Existing Power Plants. In the proposed rule, EPA presents estimates of the costs and benefits of compliance equivalent to a national net benefit of $13 billion to the electric sector in 2030 (not including additional costs to energy efficiency program participants or climate-damage reduction and health benefits). As the agency does not provide state-level compliance costs or benefits, Synapse’s tool estimates state costs to implement the EPA’s “building blocks” by assuming EPA’s average national costs by measure and using the avoided cost of energy to calibrate the results. You can also find it on our Tools page.
Synapse provided support to ACEEE in its development of a Mississippi energy efficiency potential study. Synapse provided analysis of wholesale electricity supply prices for the reference case, high-level estimates of avoided electric energy and capacity costs, and projections of electricity supply prices under a clean energy policy case. Project completed January 2014. Access the report here: http://www.aceee.org/research-report/e13m.
Since 2005, Synapse has provided analysis of New Jersey's Basic Generation Service (BGS) procurement options for the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel. The BGS procurement process includes annual auctions held by the State of New Jersey for the procurement of fixed-price, basic electric generation service (BGS-FP). BGS-FP service is the name of the rate plan for those residential and small commercial customers who choose not to use a competitive supplier for their electricity needs. Synapse's BGS procurement analysis takes into consideration the BGS auction process and other factors relevant to procurement options for NJ BGS customers. Synapse's analyses include assessment of procurement options in other states; futures markets for electricity, natural gas, and coal; recent auction/RFP results for BGS-FP-equivalent services from other states; PJM technical issues affecting BGS procurement considerations; and other relevant issues. Project work for the 2012 proceeding completed in April 2013.