With support from Environmental Defense Fund, Synapse convened a stakeholder advisory council and provided analysis to produce a vision of Ohio’s clean energy economic opportunities. The group—comprised of business leaders, manufacturers, academics, labor representatives, non-profits, and others—produced a shared vision report of how Ohio could create new jobs and economic growth by modernizing its energy economy. Essentially a business case for clean energy growth and innovation, the vision identifies multi-billion dollar opportunities related to attracting leading corporations, transforming transportation, building and deploying clean electricity and energy efficiency, and modernizing the grid, to demonstrate why Ohio is well-positioned to lead if it takes action. The vision also highlights the risks of failing to create conditions that allow Ohio businesses to compete on the national and global levels. After launching the shared vision on May 29, 2018, Synapse and the advisory group will use the report to engage additional Ohio stakeholders. Their combined input will add to a detailed roadmap of specific actions Ohio actors can take to achieve the vision. For more information, see www.poweringohio.org.
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Sierra Club retained Synapse to assess the 2017 Integrated Resource Pan (IRP) filed by Puget Sound Energy (PSE). Synapse's review found that the PSE IRP included a reasonable near-term resource plan but contained proposed actions that could lead to an unjustified deviation from that resource plan. In addition, Synapse identified a series of unjustified assumptions and conclusions regarding renewable resource costs and availability and coal plant retirement dates that resulted in a biased long-term resource plan. In comments submitted to the Washington Utilities and Transportation Commission, Synapse recommended that the Commission ensure full oversight of PSE's upcoming resource procurement processes and require PSE to use updated assumptions and enable full stakeholder participation in future IRP cycles.
Synapse provided analysis and expert testimony on behalf of Southern Alliance for Clean Energy for North Carolina's 2018 Avoided Cost Docket, no. E-100, Sub 158. Witness Devi Glick submitted responsive testimony on the topic of Battery Storage and PURPA Avoided Cost Rates.
Synapse provided analysis and expert testimony on behalf of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy for Duke Energy Carolinas (DEC) 2018 annual update of Net Energy Metering (NEM) Distributed Energy Resources (DER) methodology in DECs Annual Review of Base Rates for Fuel Costs. Witness Devi Glick submitted testimony regarding the appropriateness and accuracy of the utility's 2018 value of NEM DER update.
Surrebuttal Testimony of Devi Glick Regarding Annual Review of Base Rates of Fuel Cost for Duke Energy Carolinas
Synapse reviewed New Brunswick Power's 2018/2019 General Rate Case application on behalf of the New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board Staff.
Join us as we trace the evolution of a new reliability standard that the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) appears to be endorsing as a part of its docket on resiliency. The FERC rejected the U.S. Department of Energy's recent request for an immediate FERC rule-making to support “fuel-secure resources.” Instead, the FERC initiated an administrative docket (AD 18-7) to solicit comments from RTOS and stakeholders on how to meet new reliability concerns related to fuel storage. Two recent FERC Orders suggest that the FERC is not waiting for a resolution of the AD 18-7 process before directing RTOs to modify their tariffs to “support” necessary resources whether through capacity market enhancements or through cost-of-service agreements. In this webinar, recorded live on July 19th, 2018, Synapse's Paul Peterson provides a play-by-play analysis of these ongoing actions and developments related to reliability.
We then take a deep dive into distribution level reliability, using New Jersey as a case study. Max Chang leads a discussion on how utilities and the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities have invested in distribution infrasture to withstand future large-scale storms in the aftermath of major storm events in 2011 and 2012: Hurricane Irene, the October '11 snowstorm, and Superstorm Sandy.
Moderated by Jenn Kallay
For the January edition of Synapse's Third Thursday webinar series, we talked strategic electrification with Asa Hopkins, PhD, Kenji Takahashi, and Danielle Goldberg.
Dr. Hopkins led a big picture discussion on issues that come up for regions that adopt strategic electrification as a strategy for decarbonization, including what quantitative work can be done to assess the opportunity strategic electrification represents, and its impact on the electric system. He provided helpful examples drawn from Synapse's recent work analyzing strategic electrification opportunities in New York and New England for the Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships. Kenji Takahashi and Danielle Goldberg then got into the nitty gritty details of a specific efficiency electrification technology: cold climate heat pumps. Mr. Takahashi and Ms. Goldberg have analyzed heat pump cost-effectiveness by examining various scenarios of fuel switching from fossil fuel heating to cold climate/advanced heat pumps. This includes retrofits, early retirements and new construction for different baseline fuels.
Bruce Biewald, CEO and Founder of Synapse, moderated the discussion, which took place on January 18, 2018.
Synapse was engaged by the Newfoundland and Labrador Board to provide detailed technical support during a first-phase review of “rate mitigation” approaches associated with the impending start-up of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generating station in Labrador. Synapse evaluated the Province’s load forecast, the potential for beneficial electrification and more aggressive energy efficiency policies, and the amount of surplus energy available for export. Synapse will also addressed time-of-use and related rate design issues, and provided a more in-depth analysis of all issues during a second phase of work in 2019.
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.
We've spent early 2018 absorbed in data recently released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). We've been analyzing numbers, creating snappy data visuals, and preparing the Synapse Electricity Snapshot 2018 (available here). In this webinar from March 16, 2018, we discuss the historical trends we found. We also look to the future by reviewing EIA's 2018 Annual Energy Outlook projections for energy use from the electric power, residential, commercial, and transportation sectors through 2050.
In typical Synapse style, we walk through the data using some of our favorite interesting graphs and charts.
Featuring: Pat Knight, Tommy Vitolo PhD | Moderator: Bruce Biewald
Sierra Club retained Synapse to review the input assumptions and modeling methodologies underlying the 2017 Integrated Resource Plans (IRP) filed by Arizona Public Service Company (APS) and Tucson Electric Power Company (TEP). In comments submitted on behalf of Sierra Club, Synapse presented evidence that APS's plan to build thousands of megawatts of new natural gas-fired capacity was based on a a series of analytical errors and flawed assumptions including an unrealistically high load forecast, under-statement of available cost-effective energy efficiency, inflated renewable costs, and deflated natural gas prices. Synapse recommended that APS hold off on procuring new gas capacity until it had produced an analysis containing a more reasonable set of assumptions. In comments on TEP's IRP, Synapse recommended that TEP revise its modeling to capture a wider range of scenarios and potential portfolios, and more rigorously assess the economic status of its coal units. Citing Synapse's comments, the Arizona Corporation Commission declined to acknowledge the IRPs submitted by APS and TEP, and imposed a series of requirements to ensure that future IRPs incorporate reasonable load-growth scenarios and evaluate a reasonable range of portfolios and sensitivities.
Initial comments on TEP 2017 IRP
Sierra Club Reply to Staff's Comments and Proposed Order
Southern Alliance for Clean Energy engaged Synapse to provide technical support regarding the Tennessee Valley Authority’s electricity rates. Synapse reviewed trends in electricity prices for industrial and residential customers to assess whether TVA allocates costs across customer classes fairly. Synapse published a white paper on our findings, "Electricity Prices in the Tennessee Valley: Are customers being treated fairly?"
Synapse reviewed ISO New England’s Operational Fuel Security Analysis (OFSA) study published in January and compared the model results with alternative scenarios suggested by New England stakeholders. The report shows how assumptions about demand for energy (electric and gas) and variations in supply resources might impact grid operations and reliability during an extreme winter in 2024/25. The report finds that using reasonable assumptions about demand and supply resources show minimal grid operation concerns and no rolling blackouts. This finding is starkly different from the ISO’s conclusions in its January OFSA study.
Our report was prepared for Conservation Law Foundation, with support from the Barr Foundation, on behalf of a group of NEPOOL participants that requested that additional scenarios be modeled as part of ISO New England’s OFSA.
Maintaining Reliability Under Extreme Conditions: Understanding ISO New England's Operational Fuel Security Analysis
Synapse was awarded a Conservation Applied Research and Development (CARD) grant by the Minnesota Department of Commerce to produce a white paper with recommendations on updates to Minnesota's energy efficiency cost-effectiveness framework. The objective of this project was to describe how the key elements of the National Standard Practice Manual (NSPM) could be applied to energy efficiency cost-effectiveness analyses in Minnesota. To determine how the NSPM’s principles could be applied to Minnesota’s cost-effectiveness framework, Synapse examined Minnesota’s current energy efficiency screening policies and practices and interviewed stakeholders. We used the Resource Value Framework (RVF) described in the NSPM to recommend a Minnesota-specific test as the state's primary test.
Stakeholder Presentation - Updating the Energy Efficiency Cost-Effectiveness Framework in Minnesota
Synapse provided analysis and testimony on behalf of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy on Duke Energy Progress' proposed updated value of solar calculations in their annual fuel cost docket. Witness Devi Glick submitted testimony (Docket no. 2018-1-E) regarding the appropriate calculation of benefit categories associated with the value of solar NEM calculations and compliance with the 2014 settlement agreement regarding distributed energy resources.
Surrebuttal Testimony of Devi Glick Regarding the Value of Distributed Energy Resources in Duke Energy's 2018 Annual Review of Fuel Costs
Synapse provided analysis and expert testimony on behalf of the South Carolina Coastal Conservation League and the Southern Alliance for Clean Energy for South Carolina Electric & Gas’ (SCE&G) 2018 annual update of solar PV avoided costs under PURPA. Witness Devi Glick submitted testimony (Docket no. 2018-2-E) regarding the appropriate calculation of benefit categories associated with the value of solar calculation for PURPA QF rates and for Act 236 compliance.
Surrebuttal Testimony of Devi Glick on SCEG Fuel Costs
Dr. Asa Hopkins provided testimony before the District of Columbia PSC on behalf of the DC Department of Energy and Environment. Altagas proposed to acquire the District’s gas distribution utility, and Dr. Hopkins testified regarding the suitability of Altagas as a purchaser in light of DC’s goals for greenhouse gas emissions reductions. His testimony included an analysis of the long-term potential for natural gas consumption in the District in the context of an 80 percent GHG emissions reduction across all sectors, and concluded that dramatic reductions in fossil fuel gas consumption are going to be necessary, that renewable natural gas supplies are unlikely to make up the difference, and that WGL would need to change aspects of its business model as the city moves toward its goals. Dr. Hopkins testified regarding the suitability of Altagas’s merger commitments to the District’s GHG goals in light of these conclusions.
Direct Testimony and Exhibits of Dr. Asa Hopkins Regarding Formal Case No. 1142
Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP) and Synapse conducted a regional assessment of the tools, resources, and data sources used and useful as the region embarks on plans to help meet carbon reduction goals via Strategic Electrification. The work was supported by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
On September 20, 2018, NEEP's Elizabeth Titus joined Synapse's Asa Hopkins and Kenji Takahashi to share the results of the survey and collect additional input on how to move strategic electrification forward in the region.
This webinar is part of Synapse’s Third Thursday webinar series. Watch the webinar on our YouTube channel.
Synapse conducted a study on the economic impacts of a statewide ban on fracking in Florida.
Report on the impacts of utility investment in developing competitive markets, particularly with respect to electric vehicle infrastructure.
Wild fires rage in California. Communities continue rebuilding after devastating storms. The next financial crisis could lurk around the next corner. Worst-case scenarios are happening, but the current public policy framework leaves communities defenseless against them.
On December 21, 2017, we celebrated the release of Worst-Case Economics: Extreme Events in Climate and Finance, the latest book by Frank Ackerman (Synapse Principal Economist). Dr. Ackerman joined Bruce Biewald for our Third Thursday webinar series to discuss his new book, which Juliet Schor described as "highly accessible but profound" and Samuel Bowles called "an important book and a delight to read."
Here's a brief description from Dr. Ackerman:
The stock market and the climate are well-behaved most of the time – but those are not the times we worry about. Worst-case scenarios are all too real and all too common. The financial crisis of 2008 was not the first or the last to destroy jobs, homeownership and savings for millions of people. Ever-weirder weather includes megastorms clobbering communities from New York to Bangladesh, rising sea levels, and heat waves killing thousands across Europe.
Climate and financial crises are serious events, requiring vigorous responses. Yet public policy is trapped in an obsolete framework with a simplistic focus on average or likely outcomes rather than on dangerous extremes. What would it take to create better analyses of extreme events in climate and finance, and an appropriate policy framework for worst-case risks? Worst-Case Economics offers accessible and surprising answers to these crucial questions.
Avoided Energy Supply Costs in New England 2018 study materials:
- AESC 2018 Report - October Re-Release
- AESC 2018 Report - June Re-Release
- AESC 2018 Report - March 30 Release
- Click here to download the User Interfaces.
- Appendices for the AESC 2018 Report and a slide deck with study results can be found below.
For more information about the AESC study, please visit our project page.
Synapse has also conducted supplemental analysis on the avoided costs of compliance of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act. Visit here for more details.
Appendix C - AESC 2018
Appendix D - AESC 2018
Appendix J - AESC 2018
AESC 2018 Presentation of Results
The Effect of Uncleared Capacity Load Reductions on Peak Forecasts
DR Coefficient Calculator
AESC Supplemental Study Part I: Considering Winter Peak Benefits
AESC Supplemental Study Part II: Localized Transmission and Distribution Benefits Methodology
Pepco Holdings Inc. has proposed to build a new substation in the Mt. Vernon area in Washington, DC at a cost of over $150 million. Synapse analyzed the area to determine whether the proposed substation is required to maintain reliability. In the resulting report, Synapse demonstrates how non-wires alternatives such as energy efficiency, distributed generation, demand response, or storage could maintain reliability at a much lower cost.
Synapse Energy Economics joined with Sustainable Energy Advantage (SEA), as well as members from NECEC, Mass Energy Consumers Alliance, E4theFuture, and other organizations to analyze the current state of regional renewable portfolio standards in light of many of new policy actions that have been put into place over the last several years. These policy actions include new legislation requiring long-term contracting for renewables and other resources in Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island, revised incentives for distributed generation resources, changes to RPS polices in other states in New England, proposed Massachusetts-specific CO2 caps, and newly-revised forecasts for electricity sales that take the full impact of new energy efficiency measures into account.
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. Based on its analysis of the 2017 proposal, Synapse recommended that the BGS process should not move away from procuring a fixed price product that was meant to protect ratepayers form market volatility to a product that slowly increases protection for bidders at ratepayers’ expense.
On behalf of Consumers for Sensible Energy and a number of other non-governmental organizations, Synapse analyzed the need for, and the cost of, the Access Northeast (ANE) natural gas pipeline. As proposed, the ANE pipeline relies on a new funding mechanism whereby electric ratepayers would pay for new gas pipelines. This unprecedented funding proposal has spurred controversy and litigation: the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court and the New Hampshire Public Utilities Commission both rejected this approach, declaring that it violates state laws enacted to restructure the electric utility sector and to protect consumers from undue financial risk. Pipeline proponents claim that the ANE pipeline is needed to relieve capacity constraints on New England’s natural gas pipeline system and that the cost of the pipeline is justified because it will ultimately save money for New England electric ratepayers.
Synapse’s analysis showed otherwise. Any savings created by the ANE pipeline are likely to be outweighed by its costs, which are more than twice what proponents have generally reported. The analysis also indicated that the need for natural gas in New England will decrease dramatically within a few years of ANE’s construction. This would alleviate the capacity constraints cited to justify the pipeline. Synapse modeled energy use, prices, and emissions in a base scenario in which there is no new pipeline compared to a scenario in which the ANE pipeline is constructed.
New England's Shrinking Need for Natural Gas
Synapse’s Rachel Wilson provided analysis and testimony on an Avista Corporation rate case before the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission. Ms. Wilson evaluated Avista’s production cost modeling, which used the AuroraXMP model, to determine if its requested increase in power costs was reasonable. She found that Avista’s modeling methodology led to a sustained overestimate of annual power supply costs, as evidenced by the compounding of credit deferral balances in its Energy Recovery Mechanism. Ms. Wilson recommended that Avista recalibrate its modeling to allow the Energy Recovery Mechanism to function as intended—to capture the variability between modeled and actual power supply costs. She further recommended that Avista more fully explore the possibility of joining the Western Energy Imbalance Market, which is a real-time wholesale energy market in which participants can buy and sell energy when needed.
Synapse developed a comprehensive framework for balancing the growth of distributed solar with customer protection. Rooted in fundamental ratemaking and long-term resource planning principles, this framework enables regulators, consumer advocates, and other stakeholders to assess the merits of distributed solar against its potential for inequitable cost-shifting from solar customers to non-solar customers. The framework is grounded in addressing the three key questions that regulators should ask regarding any potential distributed solar policy: (1) How will the policy affect the development of distributed solar? (2) How cost‐effective are distributed solar resources? and (3) To what extent does the policy mitigate or exacerbate any cost‐shifting to non‐solar customers? Answering these questions will enable decision‐makers to determine which policy options best balance the protection of customers with the promotion of cost‐effective distributed solar resources. This report describes the analyses that can be used to answer these questions.
The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) conducted a study on benefits of residential heat pumps for space heating and water heating in five major cities in the Southwest. Kenji Takahashi of Synapse Energy Economics played a key advisory role assisting SWEEP with conducting the first major analysis of heat pumps against natural gas heating in the region. More specifically, he reviewed, advised, and offered recommendations on key assumptions and methodologies for evaluating energy, economic, and emissions impacts of heat pumps.
You can read the report on SWEEP's website.
In 2014-2015, Berkshire Gas in Massachusetts placed a moratorium on new services in part of its territory after identifying distribution capacity constraints and insufficient supply resources. On July 8, 2016, Berkshire Gas filed a petition with the Department of Public Utilities seeking approval of its Long-Range Forecast and Supply Plan (F&SL) under D.P.U. 16-103. The company based its plan on analysis of various resource options to increase access to natural gas for the region as a precursor to lifting the moratorium.
On behalf of the Town of Montague, Synapse reviewed and assessed the reasonableness of Berkshire Gas’s F&SL. Our review of the resource plan revealed that while the plan included energy efficiency and demand response as options, it gave little attention to such resources. Instead, the company recommended investment in extensive and expensive new infrastructure options. We concluded that the company could lift the moratorium by implementing a few simple steps: (a) re-establish curtailable agreements with two large customers that already have dual-fuel capability, and (b) change the way it estimates impacts from current and future energy efficiency programs. We also identified additional demand-side resource potential by analyzing the historical performance of gas energy efficiency programs in New England, current program offerings, and a new gas demand-response program based on internet-connected thermostats. Our analysis concluded that with these expanded demand-side resources, the company could expect future peak load to decline from today’s level over the next five years. Furthermore, the future load forecast could be even lower if it incorporated potential impacts from emerging technologies and other factors. Specifically, electric heat pumps and the state’s existing climate change policies are highly likely to lead to substantial electrification in various sectors and to lower overall gas consumption.
Using Demand-Side Resources to End a Moratorium on New Customers for a Local Natural Gas Company in Massachusetts
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