Synapse, subcontracting to Eastern Research Group, supported the Maine Climate Council in modeling economy-wide decarbonization pathways for the state that met the state’s goal of reducing emissions by 45 percent by 2030 and 80 percent by 2050 below 1990 levels. Synapse analyzed the transportation, buildings, and electric power sectors using its suite of electrification and decarbonization models. Synapse used its EV-REDI and Building Decarbonization Calculator (BDC) tools to determine trajectories for the adoption of non-emitting electric vehicles (EV) and heat pumps needed to reduce emissions in line with the state’s 2030 and 2050 targets. Using these models, we also calculated the resulting electricity consumption, which we used as an input into the electric sector modeling to ensure that enough clean energy would be generated to meet the growing needs of an electrified economy. Synapse used the EnCompass model to develop a scenario in which Maine’s renewable portfolio standard increased to 100 percent by 2050. Synapse also evaluated reasonable emissions reduction trajectories in other sectors of the economy. The resulting analysis illustrated some of the tradeoffs between reducing emissions through different technological pathways. Synapse energy sector modeling informed the Maine Climate Council's recommendations published in the final report "Maine Won't Wait: A Four-year Plan for Climate Action."
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On behalf of Sierra Club, Synapse submitted testimony supporting electric system transformation within an APS rate case, including support for enhanced customer access to data, opposition to formula rates, and recommendations for evaluation of securitization.
Surrebuttal Testimony of Cheryl Roberto for Docket No. E-01345A-19-0236
For over a decade, Synapse has provided counsel to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NS UARB) with technical consulting services on demand-side management (DSM) issues. Synapse’s services to NS UARB for the current DSM planning cycle included review, analysis, and comments on the following issues: improving the accuracy of energy savings and spending projections; modeling DSM rate and bill impacts; designing a program to target DSM at locations where distribution system investment can be avoided; modeling avoided transmission and distribution system costs; and assessing a methodology for developing avoided energy, capacity, and carbon emissions costs. In addition, Alice Napoleon provided evidence on EfficiencyOne’s proposed 2020-2022 Demand Side Management Resource Plan.
Synapse Comments on EfficiencyOne Performance Alignment Study - M09096
Synapse Comments on EfficiencyOne's 2019 Rate and Bill Impact Analysis and Model - M09471
Synapse Comments on EfficiencyOne's 2020 Rate and Bill Impact Analysis - M09943
A 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.
On behalf of the Sierra Club, Erin Camp, PhD wrote expert witness testimony evaluating Dominion Energy’s electric vehicle (EV) Smart Charging Infrastructure Pilot Program (“Pilot Program”), focusing on the light-duty EV stock growth projection for Dominion’s service territory. The EV stock growth projection, which was used to calculate the number of EV charging stations eligible for rebates in the Pilot Program, underestimated the likely adoption of light-duty EVs in the Company’s service territory. Dr. Camp’s analysis found that, by 2030, the number of registered EVs in the Dominion’s service territory is likely to be double what was predicted by the utility. Her testimony encouraged the utility to recalculate the forecasted EV market and to update the estimated number of required EV charging stations. Dr. Camp also explained that encouraging EV adoption with a well-designed utility program can put downward pressure on rates and benefit all consumers in Dominion’s service territory. Further, a well-designed program will also ensure that the benefits of transportation electrification are equitably distributed to all customers, including low- and moderate-income customers, by improving access to clean, electric transportation options in the form of electric transit (i.e., buses) and charging stations to support EV charging at multi-family buildings.
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
Synapse was retained by the Sierra Club to evaluate how coal unit commitment decisions by Monongahela Power Company in West Virginia have impacted ratepayer costs over the two-year period beginning July 1, 2018 and ending June 30, 2020. The results of this analysis were presented in testimony before the West Virginia Public Service Commission.
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
Synapse supported Sierra Club in its engagement in Arizona Public Service (APS) and Tucson Electric Power’s (TEP) Integrated Resource Planning (IRP) process. Over the course of the last two years, Synapse attended and participated in many IRP workshops and stakeholder sessions on behalf of the Sierra Club. Synapse also prepared several presentations to the Commission and utilities with recommendations for improving APS and TEP's IRPs. Finally, Synapse assisted in the development of several rounds of comments on both APS and TEP’s IRPs. These comments identified areas in which TEP and APS respectively failed to advance the goals of protecting ratepayers, providing transparency, and operating a well-planned and efficient electricity system.
Synapse and Sierra Club recommendations to APS focused on the following topics:
- APS should develop a more reasonable load forecast that incorporates COVID impacts and corrects the historical pattern of over forecasting load
- APS should better justify its modeling assumptions and decisions that continue to systematically favor new gas resources and disadvantage renewables, and the Company should not be able to add any new gas resources in the near term based on its current modeling.
- APS should conduct a study that properly models the economics of retiring the Four Corners Coal plant early and paying out the remaining coal contract relative to retiring it early and replacing it with clean energy resources.
- APS should properly reflect the costs and risks associated with future environmental regulations, including the coal combustion residuals and effluent limitation guideline rules, and the risk of water shortages.
Synapse and Sierra Club recommendations to TEP focus on the following topics:
- TEP should improve its modeling tools and employ optimized capacity expansion modeling.
- TEP should demonstrate how it will reduce its reliance on fossil resources in light of the substantial quantity of new gas resources it produced just prior to the IRP.
- TEP should utilize gas prices that are higher and more aligned with those forecasted by the US Energy Information Administration (EIA) Annual Energy Outlook (AEO).
Sierra Club Comments on Tucson Electric Power’s 2020 Integrated Resource Plan
Nova Scotia Power Inc (NSPI) filed a capital work order application for recovery of $7.1 million in costs associated with implementing a pilot study using an energy system platform to manage the impacts of Distributed Energy Resources, including paired solar and storage, community solar, and electric vehicle charging. Synapse filed testimony addressing the design and objectives of the pilot and NSPI's assessment of risk.
Synapse was retained to review applications by Indiana electric utilities to recover “lost revenue” resulting from lower than expected commercial and industrial sales due to COVID-19. Synapse's expert witness Cheryl Roberto recommended no recovery of lost revenue to The Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission. The Commission ultimately ruled against recovery of lost revenue; consistent with Synapse recommendations.
Synapse was retained by Sierra Club to review a request by Evergy Metro, Inc. and Evergy Missouri West, Inc. to recover “lost revenue” resulting from lower than expected commercial and industrial sales due to COVID-19. Synapse expert witness Cheryl Roberto testified before The Missouri Public Service Commission, recommending no recovery of lost revenue.
Synapse assisted the Sierra Club with evaluating Dominion’s 2020 Virginia IRP and modeling alternative scenarios demonstrating the cost effectiveness of clean energy generation and coal retirements. Synapse modeled an optimized Virginia Clean Economy Act (VCEA) compliant scenario in EnCompass that resulted in lower emissions and lower costs than Dominion’s preferred plan. Rachel Wilson sponsored testimony describing how the Synapse scenario eliminated unnecessary gas capacity additions that Dominion fixed in its modeling, and showed that accelerating retirements of certain coal units by increasing solar generation capacity would save ratepayers billions of dollars. In addition, Synapse reviewed Dominion’s position regarding the PJM Minimum Offer Price Rule (MOPR) and the Fixed Resource Requirement (FRR) alternative to participating in the PJM capacity market under the MOPR. Jason Frost sponsored testimony describing how the MOPR will increase the costs of meeting state clean energy goals and require Dominion to retain unnecessary legacy fossil fuel powered generation by not counting renewable capacity. Mr. Frost’s testimony also discusses how the FRR presents a way to avoid the negative impacts of the MOPR, and can reduce consumer costs by avoiding the need to pay for legacy fossil fuel capacity that is no longer needed.
Direct Testimony of Jason Frost in Case No. PUR-2020-00035
Synapse provided expert testimony and analysis to support Sierra Club in reviewing Wisconsin Power and Light (WPL) and Madison Gas and Electric’s (MGE) Fuel Cost Plans for 2021. Synapse’s testimonies focused on reviewing the operational practices used by MGE and WPL at the companies' coal-fired power plants at the Columbia Energy Center and Elm Road Generating Station. We also evaluated the plants' recent economic performance and discussed the risks these uneconomic unit commitment practices pose to MGE and WPL’s ratepayers. We found that the companies have not historically used price-based unit commitment process either in practice or in developing their annual fuel cost plans and that the current fuel planning process anticipates and enables uneconomic unit commitment by the companies.
We recommended that the companies be required to model their units operating economically for planning purposes, and to refresh their current plants to reflect this assumption. Further, we recommended that the companies be required to economically commit their units into the market, or otherwise to document their unit commitment decision-making process. Finally, we recommended that the Public Service Commission of Wisconsin make clear to utilities that their unit commitment practices will be subject to prudence reviews in the future reconciliation dockets.
Direct Testimony of Devi Glick in the application of WPL for approval to extend rates and for its fuel cost plan
Surrebuttal Testimony of Devi Glick in the application of WPL for approval to extend rates into 2021 and its fuel cost plan
Surrebuttal Testimony of Devi Glick in the application of MGE for authority to change electric and natural gas rates
The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel retained Synapse to provide expert witness testimony on the multi-year rate plan proposed by Baltimore Gas and Electric (BGE).
Surrebuttal Testimony of Cheryl Roberto regarding BGE's application for an electric and gas multi-year plan
The Sierra Club retained Synapse to provide expert testimony in Georgia Power Company’s 2019 general rate case. Several matters were at issue in this case, and Synapse was tasked with addressing the Company’s proposal to recover the expenses of coal ash remediation and its request to increase the residential customer fixed charge.
The Maryland Office of People’s Counsel retained Synapse to provide expert witness testimony on the benefit-cost analysis Baltimore Gas and Electric Company filed for its electric vehicle program portfolio as part of its Multi‐Year Plan. Synapse was also retained by OPC to respond to a benefit-cost analysis on the Potomac Electric Power Company's electric vehicle programs.
Surrebuttal Testimony of Courtney Lane Regarding BGE's Benefit-Cost Analysis of EV Programs
Direct Testimony of Courtney Lane in Reviewing PEPCO's Benefit-Cost Analysis of EV Programs
Surrebuttal Testimony of Courtney Lane Regarding Pepco's Benefit-Cost Analysis of EV Programs
Synapse was retained by the Sierra Club to analyze the historical and forward-going costs and revenues of the existing coal plants owned by Duke Energy Carolinas and Duke Energy Progress. The results of those analyses were presented in testimony before the North Carolina Utilities Commission as part of the companies' 2020 rate cases.
Direct Testimony of Rachel Wilson Regarding the Economics of Duke Energy Coal Plants - Roxboro and Mayo Plants
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.
On behalf of the Delaware Riverkeeper Network, Synapse estimated the number of new gas wells that would be drilled if the PennEast and Adelphia Gateway pipelines were to be built. Additionally, Synapse provided an estimate of the increased emissions associated with the drilling and completion of these new wells and calculated the climate impact associated with both the emissions and the increased utilization of gas.
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 is providing technical and expert witness services to the California Public Advocates Office in connection with the Long Term Procurement Plan proceeding affecting the three largest investor-owned utilities in California: Southern California Edison, Pacific Gas and Electric, and San Diego Gas and Electric. As part of this project, Synapse conducted modeling of the California ISO (CAISO) area using PLEXOS to assess loads and emissions throughout California based on various California Public Utilities Commission scenarios. Synapse analyzed model inputs, assumptions, forecast projections, and outputs, and examined alternatives including renewable energy integration and retirement scenarios. Synapse’s modeling enabled determination of areas within California that would be capacity constrained.
Reply Testimony of Bob Fagan and Patrick Luckow in Order Instituting Rulemaking to Integrate and Refine Procurement Policies and Consider Long-Term Procurement Plans
Reply Testimony of Bob Fagan and Thomas Vitolo in Order Instituting Rulemaking to Integrate and Refine Procurement Policies and Consider Long-Term Procurement Plans
On behalf of the Sierra Club and Natural Resources Defense Council, Synapse provided technical support and expert witness testimony in California docket A19-11-019. Synapse conducted a bill impacts analysis for customers in three different climate zones who might electrify their home on Pacific Gas & Electric's proposed E-ELEC time-of-use rate. Dr. Erin Camp authored expert witness testimony, demonstrating that electrifying on the proposed E-ELEC rate is not likely to be economical for customers who live in multi-family buildings, especially those customers who are low-income. In her testimony, Dr. Camp advocated for a separate, additional electrification time-of-use rate for all low-income customers in PG&E's service territory to alleviate the barrier to electrifying for this vulnerable customer group. Her analysis led to a successful E-ELEC settlement rate.
The Maryland Public Utilities Article (“PUA”) § 7-216 established the Maryland Energy Storage Pilot Program. The pilot program required each distribution utility to submit at least two energy storage project applications for Commission review. Synapse was retained by the Maryland Office of People's Counsel to assist with reviewing the applications and to provide technical analysis and recommendations. With Synapse’s assistance, OPC prepared extensive discovery requests for each of the four utilities, seeking information and data on their energy storage applications.
Synapse thoroughly reviewed each pilot energy storage project application. The review included an assessment of the proposed projects in three general areas. Synapse's Courtney Lane led the economic and ratemaking analysis of the projected costs, savings, and benefits of the proposed projects. Dr. Erin Camp led the assessment of environmental impacts and Dr. Steve Letendre addressed wholesale market issues. Synapse analysis raised concerns about wholesale market revenue risks, deferral value calculations, and emissions impact methods. Synapse expert witnesses participated in the Maryland Public Utilities Commission hearing held on July 13, 2020, to present to the Commission Synapse's analysis of the storage project applications.
Synapse assisted the Maryland Office of People’s Counsel (OPC) with a review of the Joint Utilities (Baltimore Gas and Electric, PEPCO, and DPL) petition to adopt an electric vehicle charging distribution demand charge credit rider.
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources retained Synapse and subcontractor DNV GL to produce a comprehensive assessment of mobile energy storage systems and their use in emergency relief operations. The study explored the landscape of available mobile energy storage systems, which are roughly divided into towable units and self-mobile systems in the forms of various electric vehicle (EV) platforms. Mobile energy storage systems may be uniquely capable of enhancing energy resilience in response to severe weather events and associated outage conditions. The study found that mobile energy storage systems can be self-mobile electric vehicles (light-duty vehicles, vans, or buses) or towable (towable or transportable via semi-trailer truck). This study provided a comprehensive assessment of mobile energy storage systems, their use in emergency relief operations, and their use on typical (non-outage) days. Specifically, this report addressed four fundamental questions: state-of-the-art, usage on typical days, opportunities and challenges to deploy in response to outages, and potential advantages over stationary battery energy storage systems.
The final report, Mobile Energy Storage Study: Emergency Response and Demand Reduction, is available on the Department of Energy Resources website.
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.
E4TheFuture retained Synapse to investigate whether New England is well-suited to handle the electrification transformation within the next decade. Electrification is a key strategy to reducing emissions and shifting away from fossil fuel reliance. Heat pumps and electric vehicles have gained traction as two technologies that will help that vision become a reality. Up until now, implementation has been fairly slow, but a combination of forward-looking policies and technology improvements may change that. Our question is – does increased electrification pose a threat to New England’s electric grid within the next decade? Synapse framed its' analysis in the context of ISO New England’s 2020 Capacity, Energy, Load, and Transmission forecast. Synapse found that policymakers can set an ambitious path to meet climate goals without significant disruption to the electric grid, by incorporating updated EV charging rates and controls. By continuing to offer efficiency programs, states can mitigate or even eliminate grid impacts due to electrification.
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