Distributed Generation

Synapse evaluates the costs and benefits, potential, and policy treatment of distributed generation. Distributed generation such as solar has been upending the traditional centralized power grid at increasing rates. This brings myriad opportunities for emissions reductions (if renewable), electricity cost savings, reduced peak demand, and various other benefits—and it brings a host of complexities concerning regulation, compensation, resource planning, interconnections, and equity.

Rooftop solar


Distributed generation is a broad set of electricity generating technologies located on or near customer sites or within distribution systems. Distributed generation technologies include technologies such as photovoltaic solar, reciprocating engines, microturbines, fuel cells, small-scale wind turbines, and combined heat and power. In some instances, battery storage can act like or be paired with distributed generation. Our work related to distributed generation includes:

  • Evaluating the benefits of distributed generation, including avoided transmission and distribution investments, improved reliability for customers and the grid in general, reduced environmental impacts, increased efficiency of energy use, and reduced costs of energy services
  • Evaluating distributed generation potential estimates through review of key assumptions such as distributed generation capital and O&M costs and benchmarking analyses
  • Assessing the appropriate policy treatment of distributed generation by both utility and environmental regulators
  • Evaluating grid interconnection requirements, dispatch rules, siting issues, emissions standards, and tariffs for distributed generation
  • Reviewing utilities’ back-up and stand-by tariffs
  • Reviewing utility practices to utilize distributed generation / combined heat and power to delay or avoid transmission and distribution system investments
  • Conducting technical analyses to support rulemakings on emissions standards for distributed generation

Distributed Generation Program & Policy Assessment

Synapse drills down into the details of distributed generation programs and policies—both existing and proposed—to determine if they are likely to meet intended objectives. For example, we do benefit-cost analysis and also macroeconomic impact analysis of community solar programs that are often used as a way to provide more equitable access to solar (because they don’t require someone to own their own rooftop). We also look at treatment in various contexts of qualifying facilities under the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978 (PURPA), which is a federal law aimed at ensuring compensation for distributed generation.

Net Metering

Synapse analyzes policy goals and assists with net-metering program design. Synapse also conducts cost-benefit analyses of current net-metering policies and policy options. Our experience includes:

  • Analyzing the costs and benefits of net metering from several different perspectives
  • Reviewing net-metering cost-benefit studies conducted by others
  • Examining design features of state net-metering programs, including participation, eligibility requirements, caps on unit size, caps on aggregate participation, magnitude of credit for net excess generation, and special policies for public sector participants
  • Drafting policy options for regulators to ensure that state energy goals are met at the lowest cost to consumers
  • Drafting and refining net-metering regulations

Learn more about our related work in rate design.

Distribution Generation as a System Resource

To fully take advantage of potential system benefits of distributed generation resources, utilities, regulators, policymakers, and system operators have to value and plan for them appropriately. Synapse’s work extends to many related topics to support client efforts to improve the system overall. For instance: (link the following to the right sections)

  • Using up-to-date assumptions in modeling and load-forecasting for resource planning can mean the difference between least-cost resource planning and over-building expensive generation and capacity down the road.
  • Properly calculating avoided costs can mean a more accurate picture for decision-makers when weighing the benefits and costs of policies to support distributed energy resources, or when assessing non-wires alternatives to meeting energy demand.
  • Understanding rate and bill impacts and customer participation impacts of various rate designs helps regulators and policymakers better meet multiple policy goals--such as improved energy equity, reduced emissions, and enhanced reliability.
  • And insight into how distributed generation fits with grid modernization, distribution systems and interconnection standards, micro-grids, and electrification programs allows for proactive problem-solving in support of power sector transformation.