On behalf of Sierra Club, Synapse reviewed the Tucson Electric Power Company’s (TEP) rate application submitted to the Arizona Corporation Commission. Specifically, Synapse reviewed TEP’s decision to retire the San Juan Generation Station (SJGS) Unit 1 in 2027 and its request to recover costs from ratepayers for a $34 million investment in two pollution control projects at the unit. Synapse found that TEP did not exercise due diligence in supporting its recommendation of a 2027 retirement and its capital expenditures, relying heavily on another owner of the plant, Public Service Company of New Mexico. TEP conducted its own analysis in 2012 and 2013, prior to several major changes that affect the economics of San Juan. Synapse’s analysis found that the unit is unlikely to be economic after 2022. As such, Patrick Luckow submitted expert testimony recommending that the Commission reject the proposed 2027 retirement in favor of a 2022 retirement.
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Synapse analyzed least-cost strategies for reducing emissions 40 percent below 1990 levels in Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) states by 2030. Synapse’s analysis focused on four well-researched, cost-effective emission reduction measures: energy efficiency, wind and solar generation in the electric sector, and conversion from gas-powered to electric light-duty vehicles in the transportation sector. Using a purpose-built version of Synapse's Multi-Sector Emissions Model (MSEM) and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s Regional Energy Deployment System (ReEDS) to model emissions in the RGGI states, Synapse analyzed the impacts of adding the following measures to the RGGI states’ existing goals:
- Converting one-third of all light-duty vehicles from gas to electric
- Achieving Massachusetts’ level of energy efficiency savings in all RGGI states
- Investing in onshore wind generation up to the economically achievable potential
- Limited investments in utility-scale solar installations
Version 2.0 of the resulting report considers the gas and oil savings (co-benefits) from electric energy efficiency measures and the electric savings from gas energy efficiency measures. It also includes two new carbon dioxide emission reduction measures that were not considered in our original January 2016 report:
- Gas energy efficiency measures in the residential, commercial, and industrial sectors
- The replacement of aging residential oil heating systems with air-source heat pumps (efficient electric heating units)
In addition, this study:
- revises the methodology for choosing which emission reduction measures to include in the modeling by incorporating the cost of powering electric vehicles with renewables;
- reallocates the installation of onshore wind generators across Northeast states to be more consistent with expected wind speed potential; and
- uses updated levelized costs of energy for onshore wind and utility-scale solar, reflecting the best information available at the time of publishing.
- With these measures in effect, lower emission reductions are required of the electric sector to reach the same 40-percent all-sector emissions reduction target for the nine Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative states.
Subsequent to this study, Synapse presented a webinar in which Synapse staff used RGGI as a case study to demonstrate the use of Synapse's Multi-Sector Emissions Model (M-SEM). View presentation here.
The RGGI Opportunity 1.0
The thermal energy sector, which relies primarily on fossil fuels, accounts for approximately one third of Rhode Island’s total energy consumption and total carbon emissions. By diversifying the thermal energy sector to increase use of low-carbon renewable heating and cooling technologies (e.g., air source heat pumps, ground source heat pumps, wood pellet heating, solar thermal), Rhode Island can make significant strides toward achieving greenhouse gas emission reduction goals while producing substantial economic benefits for the state. To meet these objectives, the Rhode Island Office of Energy Resources tasked Synapse and Meister Consultants Group with (a) analyzing policies and programs designed to grow the renewable thermal industry and (b) conducting a detailed market model of an alternative thermal sector energy future. This market model analyzed the cost-effectiveness, energy rate and bill impacts, local job impacts, and emission impacts of an alternative future in which Rhode Island achieves five percent renewable energy penetration by 2035.
Kenji Takahashi presented on "Rhode Island Renewable Thermal Market Strategy -- An Analysis of Energy, Environmental, Economic, Energy Bill, and Local Job Impacts of an Alternative Renewable Thermal Energy Future for Rhode Island" at 2017 Energy Efficiency in Domestic Appliances and Lighting Conference.
Synapse reviewed the engineering aspects of Rockland Electric Company’s recent distribution system investments included in the Company’s recent rate case.
Synapse assisted the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel in evaluating Rockland Electric Company’s (RECO) proposal for investments in advanced metering infrastructure (AMI). The company’s proposal seeks pre-approval to install approximately 73,880 advanced meters across its entire New Jersey service territory. RECO’s petition in a previous docket, which Synapse also evaluated, proposed AMI deployment for only a subset of customers. Tim Woolf submitted initial direct testimony to the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities arguing against pre-approval of AMI investments.
Jurisdictions across the country are grappling with the challenges and opportunities associated with rapidly increasing adoption of distributed solar resources. While distributed solar can provide many benefits – such as increased customer choice, decreased emissions, and decreased utility system costs – in some circumstances it may result in increased bills for non-solar customers. Utility regulators and state policy-makers face the difficult task of striking a balance between ensuring that cost-effective clean energy resources continue to be developed, and avoiding unreasonable rate and bill impacts for non-solar customers.
This report, prepared by Synapse for Consumers Union, provides a framework for helping decision-makers analyze distributed solar policy options comprehensively and concretely. This framework is grounded in addressing the three key questions that regulators should ask regarding any potential distributed solar policy:
- How will the policy affect the development of distributed solar?
- How cost-effective are distributed solar resources?
- To what extent does the policy mitigate or exacerbate any cost shifting to non-solar customers?
Answering these questions will enable decision-makers to determine which policy options best balance the protection of customers with the promotion of cost-effective distributed solar resources.
Show Me the Numbers Slide Deck
The New York Public Service Commission has undertaken an ambitious initiative to improve system efficiency, empower customer choice, and encourage greater penetration of clean generation and efficiency technologies. Called the Reforming the Energy Vision initiative, or REV, this case has proceeded on two tracks. The focus of Track Two is to examine what regulatory changes in current regulatory, tariff, and market designs and incentive structures are needed to better align utility interests with achieving the PSC’s objectives. Synapse provided the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) with analytical and policy expertise to help NRDC ensure that REV Track Two: (1) results in a regulatory and ratemaking model for New York that moves away from electricity as a commodity, (2) promotes the penetration of clean and renewable resources, (3) ultimately decarbonizes the electric sector, and (4) becomes a model for other jurisdictions. Synapse assisted NRDC in this matter by conducting and quantitative research and analysis to inform NRDC comments and proposals, developing and executing work plans for strategic engagement in REV Track Two, working with NRDC to draft submissions to the PSC, and otherwise participate in REV-related stakeholder processes, where required.
Synapse also assisted NRDC with Track One issues.
Comments on New York State Department of Public Service Reforming the Energy Vision Benefit-Cost Analysis White Paper
Reply Comments on New York State Department of Public Service Reforming the Energy Vision Benefit-Cost Analysis White Paper
Comments on New York State Department of Public Service Reforming the Energy Vision Track 2 White Paper
Reply Comments on New York State Department of Public Service Reforming the Energy Vision Track 2 White Paper
Comments on New York State Department of Public Service Distributed System Implementation Plan Guidance
Reply Comments on New York State Department of Public Service Distributed System Implementation Plan Guidance
Comments on New York Public Service Commission Initial Distributed System Implementation Plans
Reply Comments on New York Public Service Commission Initial Distributed System Implementation Plans
Comments on New York Public Service Commission Supplemental Distributed System Implementation Plans
Reply Comments on New York Public Service Commission Supplemental Distributed System Implementation Plans
Comments on VDER Phase 1 Implementation Plans
Synapse provided technical and policy support for several aspects related to the NY REV Initiative. This included drafting detailed comments and reply comments on the New York Utilities' proposed Distribution System Implementation Plans, with an emphasis on ensuring that distributed energy resources are properly planned for and implemented. It also included a detailed review of NY energy efficiency activities and recommendations for how to promote the implementation of all cost-effective energy efficiency resources as part of the NY REV initiatives. This work also included technical support for estimates of avoided distribution costs at constrained locations on the grid; i.e., the "value of D."
The National Standard Practice Manual and the Value of Energy Efficiency in New York
Value of Energy Efficiency in New York: Assessment of the Range of Benefits of Energy Efficiency Programs
A decade ago, the purpose of integrated resource plans (IRPs) was clear: find a least-cost way for central utilities to meet expanding energy needs. Today, a dramatically new energy landscape is shifting the purpose of IRPs. On June 16, 2016, Synapse's Principal Associate Dr. Jeremy Fisher, Senior Associate Dr. Ariel Horowitz, and Senior Associate Patrick Luckow reviewed the changing functions of IRPs across the United States during a Synapse webinar. They explored how the latest IRPs evaluate the costs and benefits of existing resources, assess the impacts of environmental regulations, integrate renewable energy, and address higher penetrations of distributed generation.
A study of the relative costs of operating each of the four Dallman Units.
Synapse assisted Sierra Club and its fellow coalition members in their involvement in a Utah net metering proceeding (Utah Division of Public Utilities Docket No. 14-035-114). Synapse provided support for four technical conferences: on technical valuation, economic valuation, cost-effectiveness valuation, and rate design and cost of service.
On behalf of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Synapse provided analysis and testimony for two dockets in front of the South Carolina Public Service Commission. In dockets 2016-1-E and 2016-3-E (ongoing), petitioners Duke Energy Progress and Duke Energy Carolinas proposed updated value of solar calculations in their respective annual fuel cost dockets. These updates track compliance with the 2014 settlement regarding distributed energy resources such as residential PV. Witness Thomas Vitolo, PhD, submitted written testimony regarding the appropriate calculation of benefit categories associated with the value of solar calculation.
Surrebuttal Testimony of Thomas Vitolo PhD Regarding Duke Energy Carolinas NEM Methodology
On behalf of the Southern Environmental Law Center, Synapse provided analysis and testimony in front of the South Carolina Public Service Commission. In docket 2016-2-E, petitioner South Carolina Electric & Gas proposed updated value of solar calculations in its annual fuel cost docket. These updates track compliance with the 2014 settlement regarding distributed energy resources such as residential PV. Witness Thomas Vitolo, PhD, submitted written testimony regarding the appropriate calculation of benefit categories associated with the value of solar calculation. Project completed July 2016.
On behalf of the Southern Environmental Law Center and Appalachian Mountain Advocates, Synapse analyzed the need for additional natural gas pipeline infrastructure in Virginia. No fewer than three new gas pipelines are proposed to run through West Virginia and Virginia: 1) the Atlantic Coast Pipeline, a 550-mile pipeline proposed by Dominion, Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and AGL Resources; 2) the Mountain Valley Pipeline, a 330-milepipeline proposed by EQT Corporation and NextEra; and 3) the Appalachian Connector Pipeline (formerly called the Western Marcellus Pipeline), an expansion of the Transco interstate pipeline proposed by Williams. All three projects will require approval from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC), which considers such projects on a case-by-case basis. Synapse staff led a project to assess the region’s pipeline needs system-wide to determine capacity needs and to compare these needs to expected future demand for natural gas.
The American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) retained Synapse to provide an analysis of potential future wind policies. Synapse modeled a suite of policy sensitivities using NREL’s ReEDS model, including a business-as-usual case, carbon tax case, and variations on the form of production tax incentives. For all cases, modeling included all U.S. states over the time period 2016-2030.
One of the key benefits most attributed to energy efficiency and renewable energy (clean energy resources) is that they reduce the use of fossil fuel resources consumed for generating electricity, and in doing so reduce fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions. Synapse reviewed a range of sources and compiled evidence that clean energy resources have indeed displaced generation by fossil resources connected to the grid, and that they are projected to continue doing so in the future. The report includes:
- utility-level case studies of electric system integrated resource planning (IRP) model results;
- a review of national-level analyses;
- an overview of marginal resources in different regional transmission organization (RTO) areas;
- modeling case studies using EPA’s AVERT; and
- a review of historical data demonstrating the impact that energy efficiency and renewable energy have already had on fossil fuel use.
In addition, the report highlights original Synapse analysis using the ReEDS model on the impacts of expanding clean energy resources on emissions related to fossil-fuel generation.
In 2014, Ameren Missouri submitted its proposed 2016-2018 Energy Efficiency Plan under the Missouri Energy Efficiency Investment Act (MEEIA). The Act stipulates that utilities should implement demand-side programs with the goal of achieving all cost-effective demand-side savings. On behalf of Sierra Club, Synapse reviewed the proposed three-year plan and submitted expert testimony with recommendations for how the plan could be improved to increase the benefits available to Ameren customers and to the Company.
Surrebuttal Testimony of Tim Woolf Regarding Ameren Missouri 2016-2018 Energy Efficiency Plan
Synapse analyzed the residential demand response programs of three New Jersey electric distribution companies.
The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) commissioned a study to analyze how a possible revenue-neutral carbon tax (or fee) could be implemented in the Commonwealth. To explore the implications of a state-specific carbon tax, Synapse and Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) developed a methodology for incorporating the supply-side energy system effects of CO2 pricing in the REMI macroeconomic models of the United States. Synapse used the ReEDS model to explore emissions and cost impacts of several policy structures for Massachusetts as well as for the rest of New England and the rest of the RGGI states.
Since 2005, Synapse has provided analysis of New Jersey's Basic Generation Service (BGS) procurement options for the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel. The BGS procurement process includes annual auctions held by the State of New Jersey for the procurement of fixed-price, basic electric generation service (BGS-FP). BGS-FP service is the name of the rate plan for those residential and small commercial customers who choose not to use a competitive supplier for their electricity needs. Synapse's BGS procurement analysis takes into consideration the BGS auction process and other factors relevant to procurement options for NJ BGS customers. Synapse's analyses include assessment of procurement options in other states; futures markets for electricity, natural gas, and coal; recent auction/RFP results for BGS-FP-equivalent services from other states; PJM technical issues affecting BGS procurement considerations; and other relevant issues. Project work for the 2012 proceeding completed in April 2013.
Synapse is providing expert technical consulting services to the District of Columbia’s Office of the Attorney General related to Exelon Corporation’s proposed acquisition of Pepco Holdings. Specifically, Synapse reviewed the Joint Applicants' economic impact analysis; merger-related reliability issues; risks associated with the Joint Applicants’ affiliated non-jurisdictional business operations and issues related to conservation of natural resources and preservation of environmental quality. Synapse is submitting testimony in the legal proceeding on behalf of the District of Columbia Government. Synapse performed similar analysis related to the merger on behalf of clients in Delaware, Maryland, and New Jersey.
Direct Testimony of Max Chang on Reliability, Risk, and Environmental Impacts of Exelon-Pepco Merger
Answering Testimony of Tyler Comings on the Economic Impact Analysis of the Exelon-PHI Merger
Answering Testimony of Max Chang on Reliability Impacts of the Exelon-PHI Merger
Synapse provided expert technical consulting services to the Maryland Office of the People's Counsel related to Exelon Corporation’s proposed acquisition of Pepco Holdings Incorporated. Specifically, Synapse reviewed the Joint Applicants' economic impact analysis and concerns regarding concentration of ownership, market power, and market manipulation in the wholesale electricity market. Synapse submitted testimony in the legal proceeding on behalf of the MD OPC. Synapse performed similar analysis related to the merger on behalf of clients in Delaware, New Jersey, and the District of Columbia.
Direct Testimony of Paul Peterson on Market Power Issues Related to the Exelon-Pepco Merger in Maryland
Surrebuttal Testimony of Tyler Comings Regarding Economic Impact Analysis in Proposed Exelon-PHI Merger in Maryland
Surrebuttal Testimony of Paul Peterson on Market Power Issues Related to the Exelon-Pepco Merger in Maryland
Synapse provided expert technical consulting services to the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel related to Exelon Corporation’s proposed acquisition of Pepco Holdings. Specifically, Synapse reviewed the Joint Applicants' economic impact analysis; merger-related reliability issues; and concerns regarding concentration of ownership, market power, and market manipulation. Synapse submitted testimony in the legal proceeding on behalf of the NJ DRC. Synapse performed similar analysis related to the merger on behalf of clients in Delaware, Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
Direct Testimony of Paul Peterson on Market Power Issues Related to the Exelon-Pepco Merger in New Jersey
Direct Testimony of Tyler Comings Regarding Economic Impact Analysis in Proposed Exelon-PHI Merger in New Jersey
The Center for Rural Affairs required technical assistance regarding the future of the Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD)‐owned Sheldon Station generating plant, including research, analysis, and findings presented in a report. Synapse detailed Sheldon’s future capital and operating costs and generation benefits, presented a list of credible options for NPPD’s replacement of Sheldon, and documented these findings in a clear, concise manner.
Synapse researched Sheldon’s future costs (i.e., costs driven by environmental regulation, market forces, and daily operations), as well as estimated the benefits NPPD gained by the plant’s operation, including those related to NPPD’s energy, capacity, and reliability needs. Synapse then outlined Nebraska‐specific options for alternatives, including energy efficiency, wind or solar photovoltaic generation, natural gas generation, market purchases, and/or transmission upgrades.
Synapse provided expert technical consulting services to the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel related to the Southern Company and AGL Resources petition seeking approval of the acquisition of AGL Resources by Southern Company. Synapse filed testimony addressing issues related to competition and market power.
Synapse is actively working with a group of stakeholders to engage in the development of the Energy Information Administration's 2016 Annual Energy Outlook (AEO), to be released in mid-2016. The AEO is a critical source of publicly available information for public interest stakeholders working to improve planning and decision-making in the energy sector. Synapse is participating in working groups associated with three key areas of the 2016 AEO: the renewable energy sector, the electricity sector, and the residential/commercial buildings sector. Modeling of EPA’s Clean Power Plan will be a major change in the 2016 AEO from previous forecasts. Synapse is working with other stakeholders to participate actively in this process and advocate for reasonable policy and technology assumptions.
AEO Buildings Working Group Meeting Notes - February 18, 2016
AEO Electricity Working Group Meeting Notes - February 10, 2016
AEO Renewables Working Group Meeting Notes - February 9, 2016
AEO Buildings Working Group Meeting Notes – December 8, 2015
AEO Electricity Working Group Meeting Notes – December 8, 2015
AEO Renewable Working Group Meeting Notes – December 7, 2015
In September 2014, Dominion Resources and its partners Duke Energy, Piedmont Natural Gas, and AGL Resources announced their joint investment in the 550‐mile interstate Atlantic Coast Pipeline (ACP). The proposed pipeline would bring natural gas from West Virginia through Virginia and into eastern North Carolina. Synapse reviewed two reports released by Dominion and its partners—one by ICF International and one by Chmura Economics & Analytics—that assessed the projected economic, job, and tax benefits associated with building and operating the ACP. Synapse identified a number of problems with the reports’ conclusions, finding that the ICF report likely overestimates the benefits of the pipeline and that both the ICF report and the Chmura report are largely inauditable.
Synapse staff developed pre-filed direct testimony for the Massachusetts Departments of Energy Resources and Environmental Protection related to the cost of Global Warming Solutions Act (GWSA) compliance avoided by energy efficiency programs in Massachusetts. Synapse developed a marginal abatement cost curve analysis examining the expected costs and reductions from specific policies. This methodology was used to explore the marginal policy—and associated cost—needed to achieve carbon dioxide emission reductions in line with the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act.
Woolf Second Amended Direct Testimony Regarding the Avoided Costs of Complying with the Global Warming Solutions Act
Stanton Rebuttal Testimony Regarding the Avoided Costs of Complying with the Global Warming Solutions Act
Woolf Rebuttal Testimony Regarding the Avoided Costs of Complying with the Global Warming Solutions Act
Synapse prepared a report on the key institutional, regulatory, and market barriers to the expansion of wind and solar development in the near term. Despite the declining costs of these technologies, their expansion is limited by technical issues and by "virtual" inefficiencies—limitations associated with structures, communications, and procedures that have adapted in a localized, fossil fuel-centric power market. The Synapse report addresses transmission and other technical barriers, administrative burdens that stall development, uncertain renewable energy policies that weaken incentives, and rate design that negatively impacts distributed generation. The report also addresses supposed barriers such as threats to system stability from the addition of intermittent renewables that—it turns out—will not be an issue for many years.
Synapse reviewed a distributed solar tariff that was proposed as an alternative policy for the Town of Belmont, Massachusetts. At the request of a group of volunteer citizens, Synapse provided a memorandum that discussed a tariff proposed by the citizen group. The memo reviewed the alternative policy specifically to answer the following question: Is the tariff fair to ratepayers that do not have rooftop solar?
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