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
Synapse is providing technical and expert witness services to the California Office of Ratepayer Advocates in connection with the Long Term Procurement Plan proceeding affecting the three largest investor-owned utilities in California: Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric, and San Diego Gas and Electric. As part of this project, Synapse conducted modeling of the California ISO (CAISO) area using PLEXOS to assess loads and emissions throughout California based on various California Public Utilities Commission scenarios. Synapse analyzed model inputs, assumptions, forecast projections, and outputs, and examined alternatives including renewable energy integration and retirement scenarios. Synapse’s modeling enabled determination of areas within California that would be capacity constrained.
Reply Testimony of Bob Fagan and Patrick Luckow in Order Instituting Rulemaking to Integrate and Refine Procurement Policies and Consider Long-Term Procurement Plans
Reply Testimony of Bob Fagan and Thomas Vitolo in Order Instituting Rulemaking to Integrate and Refine Procurement Policies and Consider Long-Term Procurement Plans
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.
The Center for Rural Affairs required technical assistance regarding the future of the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD)‐owned Sheldon Station generating plant, including research, analysis, and findings presented in a report. Synapse detailed Sheldon’s future capital and operating costs and generation benefits, presented a list of credible options for NPPD’s replacement of Sheldon, and documented these findings in a clear, concise manner.
Synapse researched Sheldon’s future costs (i.e., costs driven by environmental regulation, market forces, and daily operations), as well as estimated the benefits NPPD gained by the plant’s operation, including those related to NPPD’s energy, capacity, and reliability needs. Synapse then outlined Nebraska‐specific options for alternatives, including energy efficiency, wind or solar photovoltaic generation, natural gas generation, market purchases, and/or transmission upgrades.
Synapse’s Patrick Knight presented “AVERT and 111(d)” at the EPA Carbon Standards Technical Meeting for Midwest Advocates in Chicago, Illinois on July 24, 2014.
In 2013, under contract with the EPA, Synapse developed AVERT (the Avoided Emissions and Generation Tool). AVERT is an intermediate-complexity, publicly accessible tool for estimating the potential of energy efficiency and renewable energy programs to displace sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and carbon dioxide emissions within the continental United States. AVERT is a flexible modeling framework with a simple user interface designed specifically to meet the needs of air quality managers and other stakeholders. It allows non-expert users to easily, quickly, and flexibly evaluate individual unit emissions displaced by energy efficiency and renewable energy programs with a reasonable degree of accuracy, and yet requires little or no electricity system expertise and no specialized resources to operate. After rigorous peer review and beta testing, AVERT was released to the public in February 2014.
Sierra Club retained Synapse to review East Kentucky Power Cooperative's (EKPC's) application for a certificate of public convenience and necessity (CPCN) for re-ducting of Cooper unit 1 to meet compliance requirements under the federal Mercury and Air Toxics Standard (MATS). Synapse testimony evaluated the assumptions used in EKPC's supporting market analysis, capacity and energy position, and potential compliance costs of future environmental regulations. Project completed February 2014.
Testimony Regarding East Kentucky Power Cooperative Application for Cooper Station Retrofit and Environmental Surcharge Cost Recovery
Synapse assessed the economic and emissions impacts of retiring TVA's Shawnee Station as part of the Kentucky Environmental Foundation's Health Impact Assessment of the plant.
At the request of two British environmental NGOs, Synapse reviewed the HMRC CGE model, an economic model developed to analyze tax policies that has been applied to British climate policy proposals. The model has reportedly found that these proposals would be quite expensive. Synapse identified omissions and biases that lead to exaggeration of the costs and dismissal of the benefits of climate protection measures. The model assumes there can never be any net job creation benefits from climate policy; it ignores the health benefits of reduced air emissions under low-carbon scenarios; and it analyzes the UK in isolation, despite the global nature of the climate problem. Better analyses show that there are enormous economic and environmental benefits from rapid reduction in carbon emissions. Project completed April 2014.
Synapse provided in-depth comments on the Duke Indiana Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) process, following stakeholder meetings and presentations by the utility. Synapse evaluated commodity prices, scenarios, alternatives considered, future environmental compliance obligations, and the economics of the utility's existing coal units. The final report was published February 2014.
Synapse provided expert services to Sierra Club related to Indiana Michigan Power Company’s application for a Certificate for Public Convenience and Necessity (CPCN) for an SCR at Rockport 1. Synapse conducted thorough analysis of Company workpapers and identified key issues to the client.
The Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System (M-RETS) tracks information about renewable energy production and delivery in participating states and provinces (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Manitoba, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin). For this project, Synapse created a model to explore alternatives to the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System’s (M-RETS) previous fee structure, benchmarked model forecasts to actual data, and created a matrix of Renewable Portfolio Standards tariffs in the M-RETS region.