Consulted on issues concerning utility rate proposals that seek to establish incentives to create non-wires alternatives to transmission and distribution investments.
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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.
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.
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.
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.
On behalf of the Sierra Club, Synapse modeled the electric system in New Mexico using the EnCompass model in both capacity expansion and production cost modes. Synapse comprehensively modeled zero-emission alternatives to a new utility-proposed gas-fired generation option intended to replace the retiring San Juan Generating Station units in New Mexico in 2023. The modeling accounts for the interconnectedness of the electric power grid in the Desert Southwest region, including detailed representation of generation units in Arizona and New Mexico (and portions of Texas and California), and aggregated treatment for resources in the rest of the West.
Synapse finds that a combination of utility-scale and small-scale solar PV, utility-scale battery storage, incremental wind resource procurements, and increased deployment of demand response will provide Public Service of New Mexico with a less-expensive, and lower-emitting alternative than its proposed gas-fired generation, while meeting all reliability requirements. Utility-scale battery storage in particular is a key part of the resource portfolio. Storage resources can be deployed incrementally to provide a firm capacity resource that can be directly controlled by the utility, charged by any grid resources, and provide valuable regulation up and down and ancillary services.
Synapse provided expert witness testimony and analysis to Sierra Club for Southwestern Public Service Company's (SPS) 2019 rate case in the states of New Mexico and Texas. The case focused on the retirement date for the Tolk Plant, which the Company was requesting be moved up based on a water shortage in the region that would limit the ability for SPS to continue economically operating the plant year-round through its current retirement date. Synapse’s testimony and analysis focused on both the recent historical and future projected economic performance of Tolk under the Company’s proposed seasonal operations plan for the plant moving forward. We also evaluated the Harrington Coal-fired Power Plant. We found that both plants are likely to lose money going forward relative to alternatives and the market, and therefore SPS should develop a plan to retire both plants. SPS has been required to update its analysis on the future operation of the Tolk Power Station.
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.
This report investigates various risk factors that could have an adverse effect on TVA’s costs and, thus, rates in the next 10 years. The purpose of this report is not to forecast future rates, as the probabilities of many uncertainties are unknown, but rather to examine the extent to which some factors could increase costs and rates above expectations. Synapse has reviewed extensive historical materials as well as forward‐looking public materials and statements about expectations and plans in order to quantify the potential impact from several cost categories. Synapse analyzed the five risk factors and roughly quantified the potential rate increases over the next 10 years. We also developed an overall estimate of the potential combined impacts for 2026 and 2031 for MLGW that represent a reasonable range of possible futures, taking into account the potential impacts for the five risk factors over the next 10 years. Our analysis concludes that there are potential rate increase risks for MLGW customers ranging from 9 percent to 34 percent per year by 2031, for a total increase of approximately $90 million to about $340 million by 2031.
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 Sierra Club, Synapse analyzed the impacts of incremental policies on vehicle electrification and GHG reductions. We used MA3T, a consumer adoption model developed by Oak Ridge National Laboratory, and EV-REDI, a stock-flow impacts model developed by Synapse, to understand the impacts of EV rebates, pollution fees, and investments in public charging infrastructure on New York's EV sales, EVs on the road, CO2 emissions, and other metrics. We found that GHG reductions of 55% by 2035 from motor vehicles are achievable and will put New York on track to achieve long-term climate commitments.
Tucson Electric Power (TEP) filed a rate case with the Arizona Corporation Commission requesting approval to place into rate base its purchase of the Gila River Unit 2 natural gas combined cycle plant and its investments in ten new reciprocating internal combustion engine (RICE) units. Synapse experts Avi Allison and Devi Glick filed testimony on behalf of Sierra Club evaluating the prudence of these purchases and assessing the economics of TEP's remaining coal units.
Report on the impacts of utility investment in developing competitive markets, particularly with respect to electric vehicle infrastructure.
If you honked (or rang your bicycle bell), you'll want to watch our April 2018 Third Thursday webinar on electric vehicles, featuring Synapse experts Melissa Whited and Avi Allison.
A decade ago, urban-transportation activist (and one-time chronicler of nuclear power cost escalation) Charles Komanoff began programming “the Balanced Transportation Analyzer” — an Excel spreadsheet that synthesizes the volumes, costs, and interactivities among auto traffic, subways and buses, trucks and taxis in New York City. In fall 2017, the analytics team advising New York Governor Andrew Cuomo selected the “BTA” as its primary tool to score methods for designing a congestion-pricing plan. The report released in January 2018 by the governor’s Fix NYC task force has spurred vigorous debate, with transportation-reform advocates rallying around congestion pricing as the key policy measure to relieve chronic Manhattan traffic congestion and provide new funding to repair and revitalize the city’s ailing subways.
On February 15, 2018, Charlie joined Synapse for a webinar on congestion pricing and the BTA. His talk covered the intricacies of traffic modeling, his calculations of net benefits from congestion pricing, the implications of the New York congestion-pricing debate for urban transportation reform, and other potential applications of externality pricing (e.g., carbon taxes) in the United States.
Bruce Biewald, CEO/Founder of Synapse Energy Economics, moderated the discussion. This webinar is part of Synapse’s Third Thursday webinar series.
Avoided Energy Supply Costs in New England 2018 study materials:
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.
Synapse testified on behalf of the Illinois Attorney General, recommending that Ameren should consider prioritizing low-income populations when implementing voltage optimization projects.
Sierra Club retained Synapse Energy Economics to analyze and comment on Arizona Public Service Company's (APS) 2018 Load Forecast Report. Synapse's analysis concluded that APS's latest report continued to fail to provide adequate justification for its projection of rapid and steady load growth in the face of a decade of flat load.
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 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.
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.
Electric vehicles (EVs) have the potential to provide substantial benefits to society by reducing emissions while lowering both transportation fuel costs and electricity rates. Effective EV rate design is critical for ensuring that these benefits are realized. Through rate design, electric utilities are in a unique position to ensure that EVs charge in a manner that minimizes costs to the grid, while providing customers with fuel savings relative to gasoline, which helps to drive EV adoption.
On behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Synapse evaluated EV rate design at both the state and national levels. In June 2018, Synapse released Driving Transportation Electrification Forward in New York, a report examining New York utilities’ electric vehicle rate design proposals. NRDC filed this report along with comments in Docket 18-E-0206. The Synapse team then released a similar report for Pennsylvania. A national report currently in the works will provide utilities, regulators, and other stakeholders with an overview of key issues and best practices from a national perspective.
For more Synapse work on EV rates completed on behalf of NRDC, please follow this link.
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.
In 2018 the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a proposal to roll back existing Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) and tailpipe greenhouse gas (GHG) emission standards for light-duty vehicles to model year 2020 levels. Under the existing CAFE and GHG standards, requirements grow increasingly stringent through model year 2025. On behalf of the California Department of Justice, Synapse evaluated the macroeconomic impacts of the proposed rollback. We found that (1) the agencies' own analysis indicated that the proposed rollback would result in job losses; (2) the proposed rollback would result in reduced vehicle sales; (3) when accounting for broader economic impacts, the proposed rollback would result in greater job losses than those predicted under the agencies' analysis; and (4) the proposed rollback would negatively impact U.S. gross domestic product.
In order to fulfill its ambitious greenhouse gas emission goals, California will need to decarbonize its buildings, which are responsible for 25 percent of the state's climate emissions. California's legislature recently passed a law requiring that the state have 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.In October, Synapse released a report (prepared on behalf of NRDC) examining the technology available for clean and efficient electric heating, the customer benefits of decarbonizing buildings, the electric grid impacts of doing so, and policy recommendations for getting there. The report particularly illuminates the importance of electric rate design to the customer economics and grid impacts of building decarbonization. California has been leading on developing electric vehicle rate designs and now has the opportunity to develop rates that work for low-emission buildings as well.
On Thursday, November 15, 2018, Synapse hosted a Third Thursday webinar discussion of these issues with Asa S. Hopkins, PhD, lead author of Decarbonization of Heating Energy Use in California Buildings, and Synapse Principal Associate Melissa Whited.
California often leads the nation in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by decreasing the use of fossil fuels. Also important—but often overlooked—is California’s role as an oil producer. While this role has declined, the state still produces about 5 percent of U.S. crude oil, or 0.5 percent of world production.
Supported by the 11th Hour Project, Synapse Energy Economics analyzed the GHG and economic impacts of reducing oil output in California. Compared with a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, the study considers a policy scenario that would end all new oil drilling in the state and ban oil production within 2500 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals to mitigate the slew of local environmental and human health impacts associated with oil extraction. Under this policy scenario, the oil cutbacks (assuming they were all gasoline) are replaced by enough new solar power to fuel an equivalent number of vehicle miles travelled using electric vehicles.
The Synapse analysis finds that the state as a whole gains about 5,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs per year under the policy scenario. Cutbacks in oil jobs are almost exactly replaced by new solar energy jobs. In addition, because electric vehicles are much cheaper to operate per mile, consumer respending of fuel savings generates about 5,000 new jobs. The policy scenario also avoids 48.4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually by 2030, worth $2.8 billion per year using the Obama administration’s estimates of the social cost of carbon.
The Los Angeles City Council has mandated that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the largest municipally-run utility in the United States, analyze powering 100 percent of demand with renewable energy. To date, LADWP's efforts have been insufficient, as the utility has only published an analysis of a slight increase over current renewable energy targets and is not planning to finalize their 100 percent renewable study until 2020 at the earliest.
Food & Water Watch engaged Synapse to analyze a potential pathway to 100 percent clean energy in Los Angeles by 2030. In our study, we found that it is possible for LADWP to exclusively use renewable resources to power its system in every hour of the year. What's more, we found that under one of the clean energy pathways analyzed, the transition to 100 percent renewable energy in every hour of the year can occur at no net cost to the system. The resulting report, Clean Energy for Los Angeles, provides a roadmap for how to achieve 100 percent renewables by integrating and harnessing renewable energy more efficiently and investing in additional efficiency, storage, and demand response.
Although the report only focuses on a single city, the results are important and applicable to many other parts of the country. Los Angeles's 4 million residents make the city larger than 22 entire states, while the annual energy served by LADWP is greater than sales in 13 individual states, indicating that if this transition is possible in Los Angeles, it is feasible in other parts of the country as well.
Synapse analyzed the macroeconomic impacts of federal fuel economy standards and state zero-emission vehicle standards on the U.S. economy. Our team compared the impacts of vehicle standards set for 2017-2025 to the impacts of keeping standards at 2016 levels. Our analysis indicated that federal and state vehicle standards will result in positive employment impacts and GDP growth in both the short term and long term. Synapse released Cleaner Cars and Job Creation, a report prepared for Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, in March 2018.
In a follow-up report entitled Giving Back Half the Gains, we extended our Cleaner Cars Analysis to explore the macroeconomic impacts of the proposed rollback of the standards (henceforth called the flat-lined standards), relative to the same 2016-technology baseline. We then compared the employment and GDP impacts of the proposed flat-lined standards with the employment and GDP impacts of the existing clean vehicle standards. We found that the proposed flat-lined standards will generate 60,000 fewer job-years in 2025 and over 120,000 fewer job-years in 2035 than the existing clean vehicle standards. Furthermore, the proposed flat-lined standards will reduce GDP by $8 billion in both 2025 and 2035 when compared to the existing clean vehicle standards. We concluded that the proposed flat-lined standards are expected to reduce the positive impacts on the U.S. economy that would be generated under the existing clean vehicle standards compared to the 2016-technology baseline.
In 2018, the South Africa Department of Energy published a draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). On behalf of the Centre for Environmental Rights, Synapse evaluated the extent to which the draft complies with IRP best practices. Synapse identified a number of key flaws in the IRP, including (1) an unreasonably high load forecast, (2) unreasonably high cost projections for renewable and battery storage resources, (3) inadequate evaluation of the economic value provided by existing generating units and planned unit additions, (4) poorly supported fuel price assumptions, and (5) a disconnect between the IRP modeling findings and the selected resource plan. Synapse submitted a report identifying these deficiencies and recommending that the Department promptly correct them.
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