Renewable & Legacy Power Plants

Synapse offers a wide and growing range of services in the fast-changing world of renewable energy and legacy power systems. The dynamic between legacy, fossil-fuel-based power generators such as coal and gas plants and large-scale renewables such as on- and offshore wind and utility-scale solar energy is changing daily. Our expertise covers the physical and economic characteristics of these resources, in addition to nuclear and hydro-electric resources, so that decision-makers can act on the best available information. 

Coal fired power plant in wyoming

Renewable Energy

Our services address economic, policy, regulatory, environmental, and technical issues for utility-scale renewable energy technologies including solar, onshore and offshore wind, hydropower, geothermal, and biofuels. 

  • Economic: Synapse continuously researches and evaluates the capital and operating costs of renewable energy technologies in North America. We track and compare the different sources of cost projections over time as well as cost variations by region. This research allows us to analyze the cost-effectiveness of renewables relative to fossil fuel alternatives. Finally, we track renewable power purchase agreement prices across the United States.
  • Policy: We also evaluate and recommend public policies that are commonly used to support renewable energy technologies, such as renewable portfolio standards and feed-in tariffs. This work also includes conducting detailed technical analyses to support the development of local, state, and regional clean energy plans and policies.  
  • Regulatory: Synapse has decades of experience reviewing the potential for renewable resources in integrated resource planning  (IRP) exercises. Our team has also applied years of experience with rate design to renewable energy tariffs and community choice aggregation plans. Finally, our team of experts frequently testify before Public Utility Commissions on various renewable energy topics.
  • Environmental: Renewable energy reduces greenhouse gas and air pollutant emissions. Synapse has developed the AVoided geneRation Emissions Tool (AVERT) to help quantify the emissions benefits of deploying renewable energy on the grid. 
  • Technical: Synapse evaluates the technical and economic potential for renewable energy resources using geographic information systems (GIS) software. Synapse also specializes in the quantification of co-benefits (e.g., job impacts, tax revenue, human health impacts) and avoided costs associated with renewable energy. We also monitor interconnection and hosting capacity challenges for renewable energy projects. Synapse has a large modeling team that operates industry-standard production cost and capacity expansion modeling software. We assess utility modeling processes and regularly conduct independent and objective energy system modeling for the purposes of public reports or regulatory testimony.

Coal-Fired Power Plants

Synapse evaluates the cost to operate and maintain coal-fired power plants (at both the individual plant and fleet levels) and evaluates risk that future environmental regulations may impose. This includes assessing:

  • Estimates of capital and operating costs to comply with future environmental regulations (e.g., ozone transport, coal combustion residuals (CCR), effluent limitation guidelines (ELG))
  • Cost estimates for mitigation equipment and power plant retrofits
  • Consideration of carbon dioxide prices and the impact and risk of carbon pricing 
  • Evaluation of the daily operational practices and operational costs at a coal-fired power plant
  • Evaluation of fuel contacts, power purchase agreements, and other contracts that impact the cost and operation of a coal-fired power plant
  • Analysis of the cost of coal-to-gas conversions at existing power plants
  • Consideration of alternatives to the continued operation of coal-fired power plants, including renewable and demand-side resources.

Synapse provides litigation support relating to the economics of coal-plant operations and maintenance to clients in a range of docketed proceedings including resource plans, rate cases, environmental-project riders, fuel cost dockets (plans, reconciliation docket, audits), and coal-to-gas conversion applications. For this work, we use tools ranging from excel spreadsheets to utility planning software (EnCompass capacity expansion and production cost model). 

Synapse develops public-facing reports for clients that evaluate the cost and impact of replacing existing coal plants with clean energy portfolios. We also support clients in reviewing proposed federal rules (and rule changes) and provide expert reports to support formal comments that clients submitted on the proposed rules. 

Synapse has also developed in-house tools, including the Coal Asset Valuation Tool (CAVT), a spreadsheet-based database and model, to identify and investigate U.S. coal units at risk for retirement.

Nuclear Power

Synapse assesses the cost, risk, reliability impacts, and reasonableness of decisions related to current and planned nuclear power plants. This includes analyzing:

  • The reasonableness and economics of power uprates and life extensions at current nuclear plants
  • The reasonableness of subsidies for existing nuclear power plants 
  • The costs and risks of constructing new nuclear power plants compared to alternatives such as renewable and demand-side resources
  • The adequacy of nuclear plant decommissioning trust funds
  • Nuclear waste storage
  • The reasonableness of nuclear plant maintenance, investments, and expenditures
  • The impact of plant retirement on electric system reliability and costs
  • The role of nuclear power in efforts to address climate change

New Gas-fired Power Plants

Synapse evaluates the costs to build and operate new gas-fired power plants and evaluates the alignment of new gas plant proposals with existing state and federal regulations. This includes assessing:

  • Capital cost to install a new gas-fired power plant
  • Cost to maintain and operate a new gas-fired power plant relative to alternatives
  • Evaluation of how the proposed new plant fits within existing state and federal regulations
  • Evaluation of the risk and impact of future carbon and other environmental regulations 
  • Consideration of stranded asset risk
  • Evaluation of future assumptions around converting a gas plant to operate on hydrogen

Synapse provides litigation support for evaluating companies’ applications to construct new gas-fired power plants. For this work, we evaluate the robustness of the company’s modeling assumptions and analysis, the reasonableness of its procurement process, and how well the company evaluated and considered alternatives. We also provide public-facing reports on new gas plant proposals to support clients’ strategic efforts.