Maine’s low-income residents, like those throughout the United States, face higher energy burdens (i.e., spend proportionally more of their budgets on electricity and heating fuels) than other residents. While Maine has addressed this disparity through various measures for decades, the state and other relevant entities can act more effectively by gaining a better understanding of how and where this disparity tends to strike. With this in mind, the Maine Office of the Public Advocate commissioned a study by Synapse Energy Economics (Synapse) to shed light on the energy burdens faced by Maine’s residents. The resulting report describes Synapse’s findings on energy use in homes. We relied on various publicly available federal data sources such as the U.S. Department of Energy’s Low-Income Energy Affordability Data (LEAD) tool. We assessed differences in home energy expenditures by income bracket, by home ownership status, by type of heating fuel, and by county. The analysis reveals that Maine’s low-income households have a high energy burden: The average (mean) home energy burden for low-income households is 19 percent. On average, low-income households in the state far exceed the thresholds for the various definitions of energy poverty (generally starting with a minimum energy burden in the range of 6 to 10 percent of household income). In comparison, we find in our analysis that the average home energy burden for all Maine households is 6 percent.
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Environmental Entrepreneurs retained Synapse to perform an analysis of the economic impacts of clean vehicle standards in Colorado. We assessed the likely employment and gross domestic product impacts from Colorado enacting aggressive greenhouse gas emission standards and pursuing increased electric vehicle penetration. Our summary report concluded that the pursuit of a lower-emitting vehicle fleet is likely to result in small but positive long-term macroeconomic impacts in Colorado.
Synapse provided technical support and analysis to the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources for the development of a Comprehensive Energy Plan for the Commonwealth. The Plan is part of a broader strategy to coordinate and make consistent new and existing efforts to mitigate and reduce greenhouse gas emissions and build climate change resilience. Synapse analyzed the Commonwealth’s energy use and supply in a regional context from now until 2030 under a variety of scenarios to determine optimal policies to achieve economic competitiveness and emission goals and maintain reliability.
The final version of the Massachusetts Comprehensive Energy Plan is available at https://www.mass.gov/files/documents/2019/01/10/CEP%20Report-%20Final%2001102019.pdf.
Maritime Electric finalized its Open Access Transmission Tariff. Synapse provided technical support to the Prince Edward Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission to assess the tariff's compliance with FERC open access principles.
Synapse hosted special guests Jeannie Ramey from Climable and Dave Dayton from Clean Energy Solutions, Inc. (CESI) to discuss microgrids and selected distribution system topics, with a special focus on the environmental justice implications of our energy delivery systems. Our panelists described several innovative community-led microgrid projects in the Boston area that are part of Climable’s Resilient Urban Neighborhoods program. Climable is a Cambridge, Massachusetts-based and woman-run nonprofit committed to fostering energy democracy and climate resilience. CESI, a Boston-based group that has consulted within the clean energy movement for over 25 years, is a Climable project partner, along with Synapse.
Webinar recorded live on August 16, 2018.
On behalf of the World Bank, Synapse developed a transparent, user-friendly, Excel-based model that can estimate the greenhouse gas (GHG) emission reductions resulting from changes to electric-sector policies. It attempts to produce a reliable, documented estimate of GHG savings attributable to the initiative, suitable for use in international analysis and crediting of GHG reductions. This software tool is a power sector model, designed to examine effects of policies such as price changes, subsidies, and emissions taxes on the operation of an existing electric system. The current, first implementation of the model developed with stakeholder involvement from agencies in Morocco and is based on data and policy options that are specific to Morocco. The software is designed to be easily updated as new data become available. It is also readily adaptable to other countries in future implementations. Development of the tool itself, a user manual, and an internal report demonstrating the tool’s abilities were finalized in Spring 2018.
The Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers engaged Synapse to review National Grid’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) pilot program. Tim Woolf and Melissa Whited filed testimony in support of National Grid’s advanced metering functionality pilot, concluding that the program could provide net benefits to customers, spur company-wide AMF in Rhode Island, and provide long-lasting improvements to Rhode Island’s power sector.
Synapse is providing the Division of Public Utilities and Carriers with technical support for the National Grid rate case. The project includes expert testimony and addresses issues related to performance incentive mechanisms, multi-year rate plans, advanced metering, rate designs, and electric vehicles.
Testimony of Tim Woolf and Melissa Whited on National Grid Rate Case
Direct Testimony of Tim Woolf and Melissa Whited on Power Sector Transformation Proposals
Burlington, Vermont’s municipal electric utility, Burlington Electric Department (BED) contracted Synapse and Resource Systems Group (RSG) to develop a roadmap on how the city could best achieve its Net Zero Energy by 2030 goal. The City’s goal is defined as reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuel use from its heating and ground transportation sectors.
This roadmap is a strategic analysis of the major steps or milestones needed to reach the City's Net Zero by 2030 goal with supporting data and recommendations for next steps. In order to develop this roadmap, the Synapse/RSG team:
- developed a 2018 baseline of energy use across all sectors
- projected a business-as-usual trajectory through 2030
- analyzed four pathways to net-zero energy by 2030, including the magnitude and cost-effectiveness of each opportunity
- detailed a host of policies and strategies with consideration for impact, cost-effectiveness and equity
The intended audience for this roadmap is implementers of climate action goals, strategies and policies nationwide: including community and state leaders, partner organizations, utilities, and community members. The approach and supporting strategies are applicable to many communities nationwide. The roadmap is publically available and can be viewed here.
In early 2021, Synapse was contracted by BED to update GHG emissions and other decarbonization metrics for Burlington in order to compare actual progress in 2019 and 2020 to the projections modeled in the Net Zero Energy Roadmap. This analysis showed that Burlington's emissions have fallen 15 percent since 2018, in line with a Net Zero trajectory. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed significantly to emissions reductions in 2020, particularly by reducing the number of miles driven in private vehicles. Burlington now has the opportunity to double down on decarbonization measures, including the electrification of transportation and heating, to mitigate any post-pandemic emissions rebound.
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 assisting the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel with analyzing program characteristics of a Societal Benefits Charge (SBC) Credit Program, being implemented in rulemaking Docket No. EO12100940. To this end, Synapse will conduct supporting research, such as reviewing other states’ programs; attend working group meetings; and assist with preparation of comments. Analysis will include consideration of the following: energy reduction thresholds, the costs and feasibility of various options for credit issuance other than a reimbursement check, a SBC Budget to minimize the financial impact of the credit on other Clean Energy Programs, charging applicants an administrative fee to cover program administration costs, how the fee requirement would be administered, and other issues.
Synapse prepared testimony on energy efficiency targets and incentives on behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council in the recent Con Edison rate case. The testimony addressed the need to develop electricity and gas efficiency savings targets that are consistent with the Commission's statewide targets as well as the state's carbon emission reduction goals. It also addressed the need to provide sufficient budget to allow the utilities to provide the efficiency services necessary to meet the targets. Synapse also recommended modifications to the utility's cost-effectiveness practices to be consistent with the Commission's recent order on Benefit-Cost Analyses and to ensure the implementation of all cost-effective efficiency resources. Finally, the testimony addressed the energy efficiency earning adjustment mechanisms (i.e., performance incentive mechanisms) to ensure that Con Edison has sufficient incentive to implement effective efficiency programs, but not overlapping or unduly excessive incentives.
Comments on Comprehensive Energy Efficiency Initiative Case 18-M-0084
Consulted on issues concerning utility rate proposals that seek to establish incentives to create non-wires alternatives to transmission and distribution investments.
In 2018, Duke Energy submitted to the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality its analysis of options for the closure of eight of its coal ash basins spread over six sites. The Southern Environmental Law Center commissioned Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. to review Duke’s Summary Reports and the Company’s analysis on trucking impacts, community and regional impacts, environmental impacts, and the estimated closure costs and schedules. Our resulting report describes how Duke's evaluation framework was designed to skew results in favor of its “Closure-in-Place” option, and in fact, to effectively ignore environmental impacts and risks. On April 1, 2019, the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality ruled that Duke Energy must remove all ash from existing unlined landfills and move the ash to new, lined landfills.
Review of the 2017 Nova Scotia Load Forecast.
Comments on NSPI Reply Evidence
On behalf of Counsel to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NSUARB), Synapse assessed Nova Scotia Power's (NSPI) advanced metering infrastructure pilot proposal in 2017. NSPI requested approval to deploy advanced (“smart”) meters to up to 1,000 customers at a cost of $8.2 million. Ms. Alice Napoleon identified multiple issues with the proposal, including, among other things, that the pilot period would neither provide sufficient time for data collection nor cover the period of highest system demand; that the pilot’s size was not adequately justified; that complementary programs to help customers experience the benefits from implementation of AMI were omitted; and that the proposed network for the pilot is not consistent with the network that may be required for full implementation. The evidence concluded that the design of the proposed pilot would not provide a solid basis for determining whether the costs and benefits associated with AMI justify a full roll out. Ms. Napoleon recommended that NSUARB not approve the current pilot application based on the current record of evidence. To address deficiencies identified by Ms. Napoleon and others, NSPI withdrew its initial AMI application and stated its intention to submit an amended filing.
In October, 2017, NSPI submitted an application to implement AMI throughout its service area. The application requested Board approval of a capital work order for $133 million to replace about 495,000 conventional meters with smart meters over the period 2018 to 2020. In early 2018, Alice Napoleon submitted evidence on behalf of the NSUARB regarding NSPI's proposal. Specifically, the evidence considered: 1. cost effectiveness of the proposal, including the magnitude of and support for claimed benefits such energy savings associated with critical peak pricing; 2. the reasonableness of allowing a return on the conventional meters to be replaced; and 3. coordination with the energy efficiency utility, EfficiencyOne, to enable benefits of the meters to be realized. In response to this evidence, NSPI submitted a sensitivity analysis to more fully consider the downside risks. The Board approved NSPI’s proposal subject to conditions but disallowed a return on the existing meters.
Evidence of Alice Napoleon Regarding Pilot NS Power AMI
As a continuation of previous work, Synapse provided NS UARB with consulting services on energy efficiency issues. Specific areas where Synapse provided technical support and analysis included: rate and bill impacts, non-energy benefits, methodology to determine program incentives, and benefits of location-specific efficiency targeting. As part of the project, Synapse submitted evidence on its assessment of EfficiencyOne’s proposed 2019 Demand Side Management Resource Plan.
Comments on EfficiencyOne’s January 21, 2019 Locational DSM Pilot –DSMAG Update
2019 NS DSM Plan Evidence Napoleon M08604
In 2018, Prince Edward Island Energy Corporation (PEIEC) filed an application (the Application) for approval of its 2018-2021 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Plan (Plan) with the Prince Edward Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (the Commission or IRAC). Carr, Stevenson, and MacKay hired Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. (Synapse) to assess the Plan, in particular whether the Plan is likely to satisfy legislative requirements. To this end, Synapse reviewed the Application, issued information requests, and sponsored an expert report. The report considered the reasonableness of PEIEC’s Plan in terms of scope, cost allocation, and projected savings, participation, costs, and benefits. The expert report built upon Synapse’s 2016 comprehensive, best practice report for PEI on energy efficiency program and policy requirements. Project completed May 2019.
On behalf of the Keystone Energy Efficiency Alliance (KEEA), Synapse Energy Economics (Synapse) analyzed the potential impact on energy savings, economic benefits, and net-benefits from expanding the state’s utility energy efficiency programs by increasing budgets beyond the current budget cap. Synapse examined both a Base Case scenario and an Alternative Case scenario for 2021 to 2025, the period immediately following the Phase III programs. The Alternative Case illustrates a future with more robust energy efficiency programs, possible only if state policy makers remove the budget cap before the start of the next program phase in 2021. Under the Alternative Case, we project Pennsylvania ratepayers will enjoy incremental benefits of $1.2 billion with incremental savings of about 330 MW, equivalent to a single small natural gas power plant.
Synapse was retained by the Alliance for Clean Energy New York to develop an analysis of the role of existing renewable generation in achieving New York’s goal of 50 percent renewable energy by 2030. The report shows that so-called “Baseline” resources, which New York policymakers assumed would keep their energy and attributes in New York through 2030, have other markets for their production. If those resources are exported, New York would be forced to acquire substantial additional new renewable generation. Synapse analyzed policy options to compensate existing renewable resources for retaining their attributes in New York, and showed that they are less expensive than developing new renewable resources.
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. Synapse and the advisory group followed the release of the vision report with further stakeholder engagement and analysis, leading to a second report focused on actions that the public and private sectors can take to advance the clean energy economy in Ohio. For more information, see www.poweringohio.org.
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.
Synapse is reviewing performance incentive mechanisms for HELCO and HECO on behalf of the Division of Consumer Advocacy.
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 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.
Phase 2 Report on Muskrat Falls Project Rate Mitigation
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.
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