2017 annual update of South Carolina Electric & Gas' (SCE&G) avoided costs, to be used in both PURPA QF rates and for Act 236 compliance. Witness Thomas Vitolo, PhD, submitted testimony (Docket No. 2017-2-E).
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Synapse provides technical and policy support to the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers. Much of the support includes full participation in the RI Energy Efficiency Collaborative. The work includes all aspects of energy efficiency program design, implementation, and review related to the Narragansett Electric programs, which are some of the most aggressive and successful efficiency programs in the US. It also includes a comprehensive analysis of the rate, bill, and participation impacts of the energy efficiency programs.
Now updated to include the Clean Power Plan and other relevant regulations, the Synapse CO2 price forecasts reflect a reasonable range of expectations regarding future efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Prudent planning requires that utilities and stakeholders take this cost into account when engaging in resource planning. Our forecast, updated annually, includes low, mid, and high case projections for CO2 prices out to 2040 based on thorough analysis of proposed federal regulatory measures, ongoing state and regional policies, the price of CO2 already being factored into federal rulemakings, recent CO2 price forecasts from utility IRPs, and policy analysis and modeling from the research community.
2015 Carbon Dioxide Price Forecast
CO2 Price Report, Spring 2014: Includes 2013 CO2 Price Forecast
2013 Carbon Dioxide Price Forecast
2012 Carbon Dioxide Price Forecast
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)
On June 21, 2018, Synapse Energy Economics and Robyn DeYoung from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency presented a webinar about the Avoided Emissions and Generation Tool (AVERT). AVERT is an open-access tool built for the EPA by Synapse and ERG to estimate the hourly emissions and generation benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies and programs. AVERT allows non-expert users to measure displaced HOURLY emissions of CO2, SO2, PM2.5 and NOX, and avoided generation mitigated by local, state, or multi-state programs. Stakeholders and regulators can also use the outputs of the tool for air quality modeling and to estimate public health benefits. Advanced users can also develop a near-term future scenario by retiring, replacing, or retrofitting with pollution controls. AVERT uses public data reported to the EPA by power plants in the United States.
New to AVERT? Watch this webinar to see it in action! Already familiar with AVERT? This webinar is your opportunity to learn about the exciting 2018 updates.
Presenters: Robyn DeYoung, Senior Policy Analyst, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; Jamie Hall, Synapse Energy Economics; and Nina Peluso, Synapse Energy Economics
Watch webinar recording on our YouTube page.
Synapse is assisting this group of consumer and environmental advocates with their goal of reducing future transmission costs in New England. Topics will include: (a) properly accounting for energy efficiency in forecasting loads for transmission planning, (b) properly accounting for non-transmission alternatives in transmission planning, (c) participating in ISO-New England’s Strategic Initiative, and (d) providing input to the New England Regional System Plan. This work includes participating in a variety of different forums, including FERC dockets, ISO-NE stakeholder processes, NEPOOL technical committees, and discussions with a variety of New England stakeholders. The E4 Group is composed of the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, Grid Solar, Environment Northeast, Conservation Law Foundation, and Maine Industrial Energy Consumers.
Challenges for Electric System Planning
2016 NECPUC Symposium Presentation
On behalf of the National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA), Synapse prepared a report and briefed stakeholders and relevant parties on its its findings regarding Dominion's need for the Surry-Skiffes Creek 500 kV Transmission Line that was constructed across the Jamestown River.
In this report, we review Dominion and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ justification for the Surry-Skiffes Creek-Whealton project, evaluate the actual level of need in the NHRLA, and develop a set of alternative portfolios that can meet area need and comply with North American Electric Reliability Corporation (NERC) requirements without the Surry-Skiffes Creek project. We recommend that in the upcoming Environmental Impact Statement, the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers should require that Dominion evaluate modular battery storage as a new supply option, and update its load forecast.
On behalf of the Eastern Environmental Law Center (EELC), Synapse and subcontractor John Rosenkranz conducted a comprehensive assessment of National Grid’s Capacity Report released February 24, 2020. National Grid's Capacity Report detailed gas peak demand forecasts through the winter of 2034/35, modeling both High Demand and Low Demand scenarios. The report then assessed various long-term gas solutions to fill these gaps. These potential solutions included various large-scale gas infrastructure projects such as the NESE pipeline and LNG facilities, as well as a “No Infrastructure” option which solely relies on additional demand-side resources.
Our analysis found various errors in National Grid’s assessments of the rate of customer conversion from oil to natural gas for the load forecasts, expected levels and costs of energy efficiency and heat pumps under existing or expanded policies and programs, and gas supply resources. The report concludes that corrections to these errors and appropriate treatment of demand-side measures, with or without small changes in National Grid’s supply planning assumptions, eliminates the need for any of the large-scale infrastructure investments examined in the Capacity Report.
On behalf of Earthjustice, Synapse reviewed the U.S. EPA's benefit-cost analysis of changes to the proposed power plant effluent limitations guidelines (ELG). Synapse created an expert report that Earthjustice submitted as part of its official comments on the proposed rule modification.
The purpose of this report is to (1) evaluate the proposed changes to the 2015 ELG rule; (2) review the four options the EPA lays out for compliance (focusing on Options 2 and 4); (3) review the EPA’s benefit cost analysis (BCA); (4) critique the EPA’s analysis and results; and (5) provide recommendations on how the EPA should structure its BCA and which compliance option it should recommend.
On behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Synapse is providing technical and policy support in a number New York Public Service Commission (PSC) proceedings, including the Reforming the Energy Vision (REV) initiative. This work includes review, comments, and analysis of policies and targets for energy efficiency and other distributed energy resources, to ensure that New York meets its climate, energy, and low- and moderate-income energy affordability goals. Project ongoing.
A new report produced by Synapse Energy Economics, the Regulatory Assistance Project, and Community Action Partnership—with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—takes an in-depth look at the disparate impacts electric and natural gas infrastructure have on economic, social, and health outcomes—and consider how to ensure that a clean-energy future is a more equitable future. The report finds a variety of opportunities for policymakers, including policies to make energy more affordable for vulnerable communities, expand access to energy, reduce environmental hazards, and create jobs in the clean energy transition. The report also includes case studies from municipalities, states, and regions across the country that are working to achieve these goals. The small city of Bloomfield, Iowa, has taken charge of its energy future, transforming its approach to resource planning, investing in efficiency and solar power, and spurring local development. In Ohio, a statewide arrearage management program provides a model for protecting customers from utility shutoffs. In Minnesota, Xcel Energy and the state’s utility regulators are working together to implement performance-based regulation, with benchmarks for improving customer service quality and workforce diversity. And the 10 northeastern states that participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are reducing carbon dioxide emissions (and other pollution) from power plants, improving environmental conditions and community health outcomes. This report highlights these successes and provides policymakers with insights into how to create a successful – and economically inclusive – transition to a clean energy future.
For further insights on this report, read our blog post here.
The FERC approved the Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP) in 2017. Project owners Duke and Dominion filed a certificate for a construction extension with FERC on June 16, 2020. On behalf of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Synapse assessed the projected demand for new gas used for electric generation, estimating the “maximum demand for new gas” on a peak winter day in Dominion’s and Duke’s service territories. We examined public IRPs, new policies in Virginia and North Carolina that will lower CO2 emissions in the electric sector, and public documents related to the utilities’ internal emission reduction goals. We used that data to build spreadsheet models to assess maximum future gas demand on a winter peak day. Our analysis demonstrates that the need for new gas-fired generating resources originally anticipated by Duke and Dominion has not and will not materialize, thus negating the utilities’ claimed need for the ACP.
Earlier Synapse work on EV Rates, completed on behalf of NRDC, can be found here.
Electric Vehicles are Driving Electric Rates Down - June 2019 Update
Best Practices for Commercial and Industrial EV Rates
Synapse is assisting Energy Outreach Colorado in responding to Public Service Colorado’s time-of-use (TOU) rate implementation proposal. TOU rates have the potential to provide customers with greater control over their bills and reduce system costs. However, to be successful, TOU rates must be implemented thoughtfully and with sufficient customer education, protections, and choice. Synapse’s testimony focuses on best practices for implementing TOU rates and particularly for ensuring that low-income customers are adequately protected and are not subject to rates that would be disproportionately burdensome.
Cross-Answer Testimony and Attachments of Tim Woolf Regarding Need for Customer Opt-Out Provision in PSCo's TOU Rate Plan
On behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Synapse prepared a sweeping analysis and developed recommendations for New York to consider as the state begins a transition away from natural gas in order to meet its ambitious carbon reduction requirements. The report is being filed in the New York Public Service Commission's recently opened natural gas planning process docket.
This report is part of Synapse's continued support for New York State's "Reforming the Energy Vision" (or "REV") initiative. Find more of Synapse's work completed on behalf of NY REV here.
Electricity generation from Duke Energy, Dominion Energy, and Southern Company utilities collectively represent 12.4 percent of U.S. power sector CO2 emissions – equivalent to 4.2 percent of total U.S. CO2 emissions. While all three utilities have announced plans to decarbonize their electricity generation by 2050 in order to meet climate targets, a deeper look into their generation portfolios and plans reveals that all three utilities are on track to fall short of their emissions reduction commitments.
On behalf of the Climate Majority Project, Synapse investigated the companies’ current plans for fleet decarbonization. We made the following recommendations to help ensure a path to reach climate targets by 2050: (1) develop science-based CO2 trajectories upon which all future plans and actions should be rooted; (2) conduct robust retirement and replacement analysis to determine the least cost path to retire each company’s existing fossil fleet and replace it with alternative zero-carbon portfolios; (3) invest in renewables and demand-side resources to meet future resource needs; (4) invest in grid-modernization solutions in tandem with retirement of existing resources and development of renewables; and finally (5) evaluate and plan for changing system needs, including load growth driven by electrification instead of traditional steady demand.
Synapse worked on behalf of Labor Network for Sustainability to analyze the economic benefits of improving energy, water, and transportation infrastructure in Massachusetts through increased state, municipal, and public investment. First, we identified spending gaps between existing investment plans for these three sectors and the level of investment needed to bring the sectors to a state of good repair. We used infrastructure needs reports, gap analysis studies, and state policy goals to identify the spending gaps. Next, we calculated the employment impacts of improving this infrastructure through increased investment between 2020 and 2030. We used IMPLAN, an industry-standard job impact model, to convert annual spending levels into annual job creation. We produced a final report summarizing the results for all three sectors as well as a selected set of city-specific case studies.
Synapse worked for the National Efficiency Screening Project (NESP) with E4TheFuture as coordinator to develop a National Standard Practice Manual for Benefit-Cost Analysis of Distributed Energy Resources (NSPM). The purpose of the NSPM is to improve the way that utility customer-funded distributed energy resources are evaluated for cost-effectiveness throughout the United States, and to inform decision-makers regarding which resources are in the public interest and what level of investment is appropriate. The NSPM provides a set of policy-neutral, unbiased, and economically sound principles, concepts, and methodologies to support benefit-cost analysis for distributed energy resources, including: energy efficiency, demand response, distributed generation, distributed storage, and building and transportation electrification. Synapse's primary role was as the lead technical consultant. The manual was developed with a Drafting Committee of five experts and incorporated input from a nation-wide Review Committee. The NSPM is available here.
Synapse provided expert advice on and analysis of energy efficiency programs offered by New Jersey's Clean Energy Program for the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel. We reviewed, analyzed, and commented on various energy efficiency-related matters, including the state-administered programs’ designs and budgets, avoided energy supply cost estimates, cost-benefit analyses, energy savings protocols updates, and fiscal year budget proposals. We also reviewed and commented on New Jersey Energy Master Plans, a three-year energy efficiency program plan called the Comprehensive Resource Analysis, and various proposals associated with the new energy efficiency program framework including program delivery structure, program design, performance incentives, and cost recovery.
Synapse is providing expert testimony and analysis to Sierra Club in Duke Energy Indiana’s Fuel Adjustment Cost (FAC) dockets for the year 2020.
Synapse has evaluated Duke’s unit commitment and dispatch practices for its four coal plants at Edwardsport, Cayuga, Gibson, and Gallagher during the period covered by FAC 123 (which covers September 2019 – November 2019) and FAC 124 (which covers December 2019 – February 2020). We found that Duke has been uneconomically committing most of its units a majority of the time. As a result of the Company’s uneconomic dispatch practices, Duke has accumulated net revenue losses (based on just variable and fuel costs) at all of its units during at least one (and in most cases both) FAC periods. The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission has agreed to open a subdocket to examine the issue of unit commitment more closely. Synapse will provide testimony and support in the Subdocket, and subsequent FAC dockets in 2020.
Cause No. 38707-FAC123 Devi Glick Exhibits 1 through 5
Cause No. 38707-FAC123 Devi Glick Exhibits 6 and 7
Direct Testimony of Devi Glick in Cause No. 38707-FAC124
Cause No. 38707-FAC124 Devi Glick Exhibit 1
Cause No. 38707-FAC124 Devi Glick Exhibit 2
Cause No. 38707-FAC124 Devi Glick Exhibits 3 and 4
On behalf of the Office of the People's Counsel for the District of Columbia, Synapse performed a Ward-level analysis of three future solar scenarios for the 2019-2041 timeframe. Using geospatial and economic analysis, Synapse also calculated the likely mix of private and community solar for the District, as well as the likely mix of rooftop, parking lot, and ground-mount solar through the study period. Based on the scenarios developed, Synapse recommended courses of action to help the District meet its ambitious solar carve-out goal (10% in-District solar by 2041). Finally, Synapse conducted a rate impact assessment of each solar scenario to determine which has the best impact on ratepayers in the District. Synapse recommended the District government closely monitor progress of the solar installations relative to the carve-out, as benefits are greatest if compliance is achieved early in the study period.
On behalf of the Maryland Office of the People's Counsel, Synapse is providing technical support and expert witness services in order to facilitate alternative ratemaking proceedings, with a focus on multi-year rate plans.
On behalf of the District of Columbia Department of Energy and Environment (DOEE), Synapse is providing expert witness testimony regarding Pepco’s proposed multi-year rate plan and performance incentive mechanisms. Synapse also drafted comments in response to the Commission's Notice of Inquiry regarding implementation of the CleanEnergy DC Omnibus Amendment Act of 2018, which requires the Commission to consider the “effects on global climate change and the District’s public climate commitments.”
GD2019 04 M: DC DOEE Comments Responding to Notice of Inquiry
Direct Testimony of Courtney Lane in Formal Case No. 1156
Rebuttal Testimony of Courtney Lane in Formal Case No. 1156
Surrebuttal Testimony of Courtney Lane in Formal Case No. 1156
Supplemental Testimony of Courtney Lane in Formal Case No. 1156
Synapse prepared a Technical Brief that provides an overview of benefit-cost analysis techniques for reviewing utility proposals for grid modernization investments. The Brief is written for regulators, consumer advocates, and other stakeholders who seek to determine whether grid modernization proposals are in the public interest; especially proposals for utility-facing technologies that help advance reliability, resilience, advanced metering, and the integration of distributed energy resources. The Technical Brief addresses some of the most challenging aspects of benefit-cost analysis for grid modernization, such as determining the appropriate cost-effectiveness test to use, accounting for interactive effects between grid modernization components, and accounting for qualitative benefits. Tim Woolf presented the material in a training course for consumer advocates at the meeting of National Association of Utility Consumer Advocates in November 2018. He also presented the material at the Mid-Atlantic Distribution Systems and Planning Training with the NARUC-NASEO Task Force on Comprehensive Electricity Planning on March 8, 2019.
Electrification of the transportation sector is imminent, offering promises of lower costs for both electricity consumers and vehicle owners, but the path and speed the transition takes is not predetermined. The costs and benefits of electric vehicle (EV) adoption and the manner in which those costs and benefits are allocated among utility customers can vary substantially, with important implications for equity. The costs to utility customers are largely driven by the timing of EV charging, as well as any utility transportation electrification programs that rely on ratepayer funds. Who experiences the benefits depends, in part, on the design of transportation electrification programs, although many benefits (such as rate reductions and reduced pollutants) will be experienced by all utility customers.
Synapse worked with an advisory group composed of consumer advocates from across the country to develop a framework for helping consumer advocates analyze EV policy options (including ratepayer-funded transportation electrification programs) and ensure that the benefits of EV adoption are equitably distributed across customers.
Tampa Electric Company (TECO) filed an application to construct a new 1090 MW gas-fired power plant at a cost of $895 million. This so called “modernization” project sought to repower an existing steam turbine at the site of the coal- and gas-fired power plant at the Big Bend Power Station in Tampa, Florida. Synapse provided analysis and expert testimony on behalf of the Sierra Club to evaluate the need for, and impact of, the proposed plant.
Synapse found that TECO's application did not demonstrate a need for the electricity generated by this new gas plant, and made numerous dubious claims about the project’s environmental and economic benefits. Witness Bruce Biewald submitted testimony on the climate damages that will result from the construction of the gas plant. Witness Devi Glick submitted testimony assessing the electrical energy needs of TECO’s customers, and identifying ways to meet those needs through better system planning and cleaner, lower cost alternative resources.
The Proposed Plant at Big Bend: A Review of Climate Impacts
Synapse performed a study to examine opportunities for, barriers to, and economic impacts of energy storage deployment in the context of Colorado’s changing energy landscape. The resulting report discussed: storage’s role in meeting clean energy targets; existing facilities, industries, and legislation related to storage; available commercial technologies and their services to the grid; state barriers and example solutions from other states; and the impact of various policy scenarios on the energy storage in Colorado's future, based on electric system modeling results.
The late January 2019 Polar Vortex weather event brought extreme temperatures to the upper Midwest through New England – the same stretch of the country where the most fossil fuels are used to heat buildings. As it becomes clear that a decarbonized electric grid is possible, “#ElectrifyEverything” has become a rallying cry for the path to transportation and building decarbonization. In this webinar, we explore the hypothetical: What if all the buildings from the Dakotas, to the Ohio River Valley, through Maine were heated with cold climate heat pumps instead? We estimate the impact on hourly peak electric loads, and we use this to tee up and discuss questions about what a cost-effective plan to decarbonize these buildings would need to address.
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