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.
You can browse all project descriptions (below), or narrow the search results by selecting one or more filters (topic area, client, etc.).
In 2018 and 2019, Synapse surveyed 50 states, the District of Columbia, and Puerto Rico on energy efficiency cost-effectiveness practices and created a public database to summarize and compare state results. The purpose of the Database of Screening Practices (DSP) is to provide information regarding state cost-effectiveness screening practices for ratepayer-funded electric efficiency programs. States can use the DSP to learn from other state’s practices and to readily access and better understand policies, processes, and studies that support assumptions used by states in benefit-cost analyses.
Synapse launched a report in the fall of 2018 examining the technology options and impacts for building decarbonization in California, with a primary focus on air source heat pumps for space and water heating. The report examines electric grid impacts as well as the impact on customer economics. This included a detailed comparison of customer economics under different existing and near future rate structures. The report concludes with a set of recommended actions, including policy changes, to accelerate market transformation in the building sector.
Michigan Environmental Council hired Synapse to review and provide expert testimony regarding DTE Electric's application for reconciliation of its Power Supply Cost Recovery Plan for 2017. Synapse expert Avi Allison filed testimony evaluating the operations and economic performance of DTE's coal fleet in 2017.
Michigan Environment Council and Sierra Club hired Synapse to review and provide expert testimony regarding DTE Electric's application for authority to implement a Power Supply Cost Recovery Plan for 2018. Synapse expert Avi Allison filed testimony evaluating the economic status of DTE's coal fleet.
On behalf of the North Carolina Sustainable Business Association, Synapse modeled two scenarios: a "Duke IRP" scenario, which included the Company's planned retirements and additions of more than 9 GW of new gas capacity, and a "Clean Energy" scenario, which included increased penetrations of solar and battery storage technologies. We compared these two scenarios based on energy, capacity, emissions, and impacts to health, rates/bills, GDP, and jobs in North Carolina. Synapse also examined the same impacts for ratepayers in South Carolina on behalf of the South Carolina Solar Business Alliance. The Synapse analyses found that renewable and battery resource options are comparably cost-effective to new natural gas for Carolina ratepayers, and offer other benefits as well.
Modeling Clean Energy for South Carolina: An Alternative to Duke's Integrated Resource Plan
In August of 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a proposed rule to replace existing vehicle fuel standards. Entitled, Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks, or the SAFE Vehicles Rule, the proposed rule would roll back requirements for fuel efficiency mandated in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards.
Synapse examined NHTSA’s and EPA’s vehicle sales and safety analysis, which is presented as a primary motivation for the selection of the standards in the draft rule. NHTSA and EPA estimate that lighter vehicles lead to more vehicle crash fatalities and automakers will be less inclined to reduce the mass of their vehicles if fuel economy standards are less stringent. Further, the agencies indicate that newer vehicles are safer, and more people will buy new vehicles under the draft rule instead of holding onto older vehicles because the cost to buy a new vehicle will be lower.
Our team conducted a literature review and reviewed NHTSA’s and EPA’s vehicle sales and safety modeling. Our analysis found serious flaws in the arguments and underlying analysis and assumptions used by NHTSA and EPA. After correcting these flaws, our analysis showed that increasing fuel economy and GHG standards maintains or even improves vehicle safety, consistent with peer-reviewed literature on this topic and past agency findings. Synapse released Effect of the Draft CAFE Standard Rule on Vehicle Safety, a report prepared for Consumers Union, in October 2018.
On behalf of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), and funded through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Synapse conducted an assessment across New York and New England of the region’s resources and needs as states seek to meet policy goals through strategic electrification. Specifically, Synapse surveyed stakeholders in the Northeast region--including state energy offices, local governments, utilities, and energy efficiency program administrators--to identify useful tools, resources, and databases that (a) are currently used to promote or assess impacts of strategic electrification or (b) the stakeholders would like to have to further their current work concerning electrification. The objective of this survey was to allow interested states to accelerate strategic electrification through fostering effective resource sharing, finding resource gaps, and identifying new research needs and areas. NEEP and Synapse presented a webinar on this survey to the public on September 20, 2018. Watch the webinar.
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 has a new EV tool! Our new EV-REDI (Electric Vehicle Regional Emissions and Demand Impacts) tool models multiple impacts of transportation electrification for specific states. With electric vehicles on the rise, there will be enormous opportunities for making transportation more sustainable and modernizing the electric grid. But to realize this potential, it will be necessary to plan ahead. More and more, states, cities, utilities, and regional authorities are seriously considering the impacts of futures in which electric vehicles play an increasingly important role in the transportation sector. EV-REDI can help meet the need to quantify the impacts of increased EV penetration on electricity sales, greenhouse gas emissions, and avoided gasoline consumption. Join us on October 18th to learn more about EV-REDI!
Webinar recorded on October 18, 2018. Watch it here!
Presenter: Pat Knight | Moderator: Bruce Biewald
The electrification of transportation systems can bring substantial economic and public health benefits. Synapse’s new guidebook for consumer advocates describes how to evaluate the potential impacts of EVs on customers’ electricity rates, health, and vehicle expenditures. It also describes some of the policies that can be implemented to help ensure that transportation electrification occurs in a manner that allows all customers, particularly low-income and other vulnerable groups, to share in the benefits while not unfairly bearing the costs.
Massachusetts’ Green Communities program helps the state’s 351 cities and towns find and successfully implement clean energy solutions. To receive Green Community designation, communities must develop and implement a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years and meet additional criteria including allowing for permitting and siting of renewable energy, purchasing fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles, and adopting more stringent building codes. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources engaged Synapse to review Green Community Annual Reports, verify whether municipalities have reached their 20 percent energy reduction goal, and develop a Progress Report for the program highlighting achievements to date. Synapse also identified strategies that are effective across towns and made recommendations to continue to advance and improve the program. Synapse developed the Green Communities Program 2016 Progress Report, available here, and provided updated analysis for 2017 and 2018.
Synapse reviewed the analysis conducted by Idaho Power Company (IPC) in support of its 2017 Integrated Resource Plan. In comments submitted on behalf of Sierra Club, Synapse identified concerns including a lack of rigorous modeling, the selection of an illegal resource plan, under-statement of future coal unit costs, and the lack of rigorous evaluation of the economic status of existing IPC coal units. Synapse recommended that IPC conduct optimization modeling in future IRPs, and fully assess the status of its Jim Bridger coal plant with respect to reasonable alternatives.
Sierra Club Final Comments on Idaho Power Company's 2017 IRP
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.
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 with Synapse Energy Economics (Synapse) and Resource Systems Group (RSG) to develop a roadmap to provide clarity and insight into how the City could best achieve its Net Zero Energy by 2030 goal. The City’s Net Zero Energy goal is defined as reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuel use from the heating and ground transportation sectors. Burlington currently sources 100 percent of the City’s electricity needs from renewables. Burlington’s Net Zero Energy goal is the most ambitious climate goal established by any community in the United States to date for both its rapidity and comprehensiveness.
This roadmap is a strategic analysis of the major steps or milestones needed to reach the goal with supporting data and recommended next steps for achieving the goal. 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; and,
- 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. Policymakers, implementers, and citizens in states, regions, cities, and towns can read the roadmap here.
Synapse provided expert advice on and analysis of energy efficiency programs offered by New Jersey's Clean Energy Program for the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel. We reviewed, analyzed, and commented on various energy efficiency-related matters, including the state-administered programs’ designs and budgets, avoided energy supply cost estimates, cost-benefit analyses, energy savings protocols updates, and fiscal year budget proposals. We also reviewed and commented on New Jersey Energy Master Plans, a three-year energy efficiency program plan called the Comprehensive Resource Analysis, and various proposals associated with the new energy efficiency program framework including program delivery structure, program design, performance incentives, and cost recovery.
Synapse is 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
Synapse posts hundreds of publications for free public download. You can browse all publications (below), or narrow the search results by selecting one or more filters (topic area, client, etc.).