Building Decarbonization

Synapse helps our clients understand the ongoing and upcoming transitions needed in the building sector as jurisdictions pursue decarbonization policies.

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The building sector is the largest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions in the US, representing 31% of end-use emissions. Our experts are charting the future of building systems in a decarbonized world by helping clients:

  • Understand building technologies, markets, and barriers to decarbonization
  • Assess and design policies to make buildings more efficient and catalyze the market for emissions-free space heating, water heating, cooking, and other energy uses
  • Develop strategies to achieve an equitable, thoughtful, and proactive transition to a decarbonized future
  • Evaluate the costs and benefits of building decarbonization: implementation costs, energy savings, energy bill impacts, grid impacts, reductions in pollutants, job creation, health benefits, and more
  • Engage stakeholders in the process by facilitating technical advisory groups, conducting open house meetings, and educating community partners
  • Assess utility energy efficiency and building electrification programs to measure their performance against policy objectives and best-in-class programs

Detailed Building Sector Analysis & Policy Design

Synapse uses a collection of in-house and industry-standard models to evaluate the opportunities and challenges of building decarbonization. Our experts digest complex datasets to develop decarbonization strategies tailored to a jurisdiction’s building stock. We build custom scenarios and analyze the energy, emissions, and economic impacts to help our clients create a roadmap toward decarbonized buildings. We assist policymakers with the design of decarbonization strategies needed to meet climate targets, such as building performance standards, building codes, and retrofit programs. At Synapse, we realize that no single tool or approach is right for every job, and we work with our clients to identify which analytical frameworks and strategies are most relevant to their situation.

Energy Bill & Rate Analysis

Synapse has an in-house electrification bill impact model that analyzes both gas and electric bill impacts for a residential customer who electrifies its major end-uses from natural gas (i.e., space and water heating, cooking, and laundry). Using this model, Synapse assists clients in assessing the reasonableness of current or proposed rate designs and developing alternative rate designs to support building electrification. This model can analyze complex electric and natural gas tariffs such as time of use rates and baseline use rates. The model also has functions to estimate the benefits of adding solar PV and cooling and water heating demand response strategies, as well as electric vehicles. 

Tackling Equity Through Building Decarbonization

Synapse recognizes that equitable policymaking for building decarbonization can help address inequities that confront vulnerable communities, such as low-income neighborhoods, communities of color, and areas with increased pollution exposure. We help clients evaluate the co-benefits that building decarbonization can create, such as quality jobs, improved health, and a cleaner environment. Our equitable policy design toolkit can help ensure that vulnerable populations are not left behind and reduce social costs of the transition to a decarbonized building sector.

Engaging & Educating Stakeholders

Synapse works with our clients to identify and engage key stakeholders. We hold in-person and virtual meetings, facilitate technical advisory groups, conduct surveys, and elicit feedback from stakeholders across a wide range of interests. This approach helps build consensus around a building decarbonization framework that’s right for the towns, cities, counties, states, and regions where we work.

Evaluating Cross-Sector Impacts

Building decarbonization has cross-cutting implications for the electric grid, natural gas utilities, the industrial sector, and economy-wide decarbonization. Synapse is poised to help our clients assess and understand these interactive effects. We quantify the impact of electrification on the grid, including winter peak demands on the electric generation, transmission, and distribution systems, and the value of flexible loads as grid resources. We draw upon our expertise in utility regulation to provide expert analysis, including expert testimony, regarding the implications of building decarbonization for gas utilities, including gas infrastructure planning, financial strength, and ratepayer implications. Synapse’s analysis and testimony on rate designs helps establish frameworks that are just and reasonable for customers with efficient and flexible electric loads. We provide insights on leading policies and technologies to facilitate the decarbonization of industrial buildings, such as electrification of process heat, carbon management, alternative feedstocks for manufacturing, low-carbon combustion fuels, and other innovative approaches.