Sierra Club retained Synapse to conduct an updated economic analysis of the J.K. Spruce coal plant, located near San Antonio, Texas. Synapse evaluated the recent economic performance of the plant, the likely performance of the plant over the next two decades, and the availability of cost-effective renewable alternatives to Spruce. Synapse found that (1) the Spruce plant likely lost more than $100 million relative to the market between 2013 and 2018; (2) Spruce is likely to continue to lose money relative to the market in the near term; (3) Spruce will only become profitable relative to the market over the long term if a series of favorable conditions hold; (4) CPS would likely save money by replacing the Spruce plant with renewable resources, even under market conditions favorable to the Spruce units; (5) replacing Spruce with renewables would reduce emissions and associated regulatory risks in addition to likely reducing costs; (6) retiring uneconomic coal units would be unlikely to harm CPS's credit rating; and (7) the current planned Spruce retirement dates are not based in a sufficiently robust and transparent planning process. We concluded that CPS should promptly engage in a thorough, public planning process to evaluate the potential near-term retirement of the Spruce units.
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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.
On behalf of Sierra Club, Synapse developed a least-cost resource portfolio to inform future plans for the Santee Cooper public utility in South Carolina. The resulting report explores a variety of energy mixes for the state-owned utility, and demonstrates that Santee Cooper’s continued reliance on coal or building large fracked-gas plants would be the costliest options. The least-cost option entails a combination of renewable energy resources and energy efficiency.
On behalf of Maine Renewable Energy Association and other Maine stakeholders, Synapse partnered with Sustainable Energy Advantage to assess the impacts of expanding Maine’s Class I renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to reach 50 percent by 2030. This analysis found that expanding the RPS would: Create 170 jobs per year between 2020 and 2030; Improve public health by curbing air pollution, avoiding $500,000 per year in public health damages between 2020 and 2030; Add 700 MW of new, in-state renewable energy projects; Result in minimal impact to Maine’s ratepayers, with only slight increases in residential bills of $1.16 to $1.76 per month between 2020 and 2030; and Reduce Maine’s reliance on fossil fuels by 5% and curb greenhouse-gas emissions from the electric sector attributable to Maine by 55%.
Maine RPS Analysis Appendix
Burlington, Vermont’s municipal electric utility, Burlington Electric Department (BED) contracted Synapse and Resource Systems Group (RSG) to develop a roadmap on how the city could best achieve its Net Zero Energy by 2030 goal. The City’s goal is defined as reducing and eventually eliminating fossil fuel use from its heating and ground transportation sectors.
This roadmap is a strategic analysis of the major steps or milestones needed to reach the City's Net Zero by 2030 goal with supporting data and recommendations for next steps. In order to develop this roadmap, the Synapse/RSG team:
- developed a 2018 baseline of energy use across all sectors
- projected a business-as-usual trajectory through 2030
- analyzed four pathways to net-zero energy by 2030, including the magnitude and cost-effectiveness of each opportunity
- detailed a host of policies and strategies with consideration for impact, cost-effectiveness and equity
The intended audience for this roadmap is implementers of climate action goals, strategies and policies nationwide: including community and state leaders, partner organizations, utilities, and community members. The approach and supporting strategies are applicable to many communities nationwide. The roadmap is publically available and can be viewed here.
In early 2021, Synapse was contracted by BED to update GHG emissions and other decarbonization metrics for Burlington in order to compare actual progress in 2019 and 2020 to the projections modeled in the Net Zero Energy Roadmap. This analysis showed that Burlington's emissions have fallen 15 percent since 2018, in line with a Net Zero trajectory. The COVID-19 pandemic contributed significantly to emissions reductions in 2020, particularly by reducing the number of miles driven in private vehicles. Burlington now has the opportunity to double down on decarbonization measures, including the electrification of transportation and heating, to mitigate any post-pandemic emissions rebound.
The New Brunswick Energy and Utilities Board Staff commissioned Synapse to review New Brunswick Power Corporation’s Advanced Metering Infrastructure Capital Project proposal. Synapse reviewed, critiqued, and made recommendations to The Board regarding NB Power’s proposal, identifying multiple concerns within the proposal including its use of outdated Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) technology and features assumptions, a lack of considering alternative scenarios such as a partial rollout, and potentially overstated savings and benefits, and understated costs of investments.
Synapse worked with New Hampshire's Benefit/Cost Working Group to develop an energy efficiency cost-effectiveness framework that is intended to fully reflect state energy policy goals. Synapse and the working group applied the seven steps framework of the National Standard Practice Manual to develop the new framework for New Hampshire. Synapse recommends New Hampshire utilities adopt the Granite State Test as the primary cost-effectiveness test for energy efficiency resources, and review the results of a secondary Granite State Test as well as the Utility Cost Test when assessing program cost-effectiveness.
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.
On behalf of the Environmental Defense Fund, Synapse conducted a benefit-cost analysis of a regulation to curb methane emissions from the oil and gas industry in New Mexico. The analysis evaluated the Gold Standard set of emissions regulations, comparing implementation costs to several types of benefits to the state of New Mexico: sales from newly captured gas, avoided costs related to human health impacts, and avoided nonattainment costs of reduced GHG emissions. Additionally, the report evaluated the global societal benefit of reducing methane emissions into the atmosphere.
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
On behalf of the Clean Energy Parties, Synapse reviewed each of the New York utilities’ marginal cost of service studies and supporting data used to determine the distribution system value provided by distributed solar (expressed as Demand Reduction Value and Locational System Relief Value). Based on our review and analysis, Synapse developed a set of recommendations intended to create consistent and reliable methodologies for determining the costs avoided by distributed energy resources across New York State.
CEP Comments on Future of Value Stack
Climate Costs and the "Value of E": Incorporating the costs of carbon emissions into New York's electric system planning
Washington D.C. is experiencing rapid development of new residential and office buildings in and around the Mt. Vernon Triangle area. In response, the local utility has proposed building a new substation to serve the expected load growth at a cost of approximately $150 million. The utility reviewed and incorporated some energy efficiency and other distributed energy resources (DER) in its load forecast, but concluded that such non-wires solutions (NWAs) do not provide enough capacity to resolve the expected distribution constraints. However, Synapse Energy Economics’ analysis revealed that the utility’s plan did not adequately account for the potential impacts of cost-effective targeted DER solutions or future building codes.
Synapse conducted a comprehensive assessment of the utility’s load forecast and the feasibility of NWAs. We quantified cost-effective NWAs sufficient for deferring the need for the substation. This presentation highlights the key issues, assumptions, methodologies, and results from our analysis. Further, we present how our findings can be applied to other regions facing similar situations. Specifically, this presentation covers: (a) peak load forecasting methodologies; (b) peak load assumptions for existing buildings and new construction; (c) solar PV projections; and (d) achievable energy efficiency and demand response potential for the Mt. Vernon area. Synapse used building load data, existing end-use level potential studies, and program performance from leading programs to estimate energy efficiency and demand response potential. The presenter will also highlight studies and leading programs Synapse referenced to develop key assumptions on energy savings, costs, and participation rates.
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.
Comments on EfficiencyOne’s January 21, 2019 Locational DSM Pilot –DSMAG Update
2019 NS DSM Plan Evidence Napoleon M08604
In 2018, Prince Edward Island Energy Corporation (PEIEC) filed an application (the Application) for approval of its 2018-2021 Energy Efficiency and Conservation Plan (Plan) with the Prince Edward Island Regulatory and Appeals Commission (the Commission or IRAC). Carr, Stevenson, and MacKay hired Synapse Energy Economics, Inc. (Synapse) to assess the Plan, in particular whether the Plan is likely to satisfy legislative requirements. To this end, Synapse reviewed the Application, issued information requests, and sponsored an expert report. The report considered the reasonableness of PEIEC’s Plan in terms of scope, cost allocation, and projected savings, participation, costs, and benefits. The expert report built upon Synapse’s 2016 comprehensive, best practice report for PEI on energy efficiency program and policy requirements. Project completed May 2019.
With support from Environmental Defense Fund, Synapse convened a stakeholder advisory council and provided analysis to produce a vision of Ohio’s clean energy economic opportunities. The group—comprised of business leaders, manufacturers, academics, labor representatives, non-profits, and others—produced a shared vision report of how Ohio could create new jobs and economic growth by modernizing its energy economy. Essentially a business case for clean energy growth and innovation, the vision identifies multi-billion dollar opportunities related to attracting leading corporations, transforming transportation, building and deploying clean electricity and energy efficiency, and modernizing the grid, to demonstrate why Ohio is well-positioned to lead if it takes action. The vision also highlights the risks of failing to create conditions that allow Ohio businesses to compete on the national and global levels. Synapse and the advisory group followed the release of the vision report with further stakeholder engagement and analysis, leading to a second report focused on actions that the public and private sectors can take to advance the clean energy economy in Ohio. For more information, see www.poweringohio.org.
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.
Testimony of Devi Glick in Case No. 19-00170-UT
Direct Testimony of Devi Glick in PUC Docket No. 49831
Synapse was engaged by the Newfoundland and Labrador Board to provide detailed technical support during a first-phase review of “rate mitigation” approaches associated with the impending start-up of the Muskrat Falls hydroelectric generating station in Labrador. Synapse evaluated the Province’s load forecast, the potential for beneficial electrification and more aggressive energy efficiency policies, and the amount of surplus energy available for export. Synapse also addressed time-of-use and related rate design issues, and provided a more in-depth analysis of all issues during a second phase of work in 2019.
Phase 2 Report on Muskrat Falls Project Rate Mitigation
In collaboration with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, Synapse assisted the Advanced Manufacturing Office of the U.S. Department of Energy in developing resources to communicate the approach and value of the 50001 Ready and Superior Energy Performance programs to utilities and regulators. Synapse developed a cost-effectiveness tool and data collection template for this project. Additionally, Synapse provided technical assistance on program designs, measurement and verification, case studies, and outreach materials to encourage energy efficiency program administrators to incorporate strategic energy management programs into their commercial and industrial portfolios.
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.
Synapse is assisting this group of consumer and environmental advocates with their goal of reducing future transmission costs in New England. Topics will include: (a) properly accounting for energy efficiency in forecasting loads for transmission planning, (b) properly accounting for non-transmission alternatives in transmission planning, (c) participating in ISO-New England’s Strategic Initiative, and (d) providing input to the New England Regional System Plan. This work includes participating in a variety of different forums, including FERC dockets, ISO-NE stakeholder processes, NEPOOL technical committees, and discussions with a variety of New England stakeholders. The E4 Group is composed of the Maine Office of the Public Advocate, Grid Solar, Environment Northeast, Conservation Law Foundation, and Maine Industrial Energy Consumers.
Challenges for Electric System Planning
2016 NECPUC Symposium Presentation
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.
Surrebuttal Testimony of Avi Allison in Docket No. E-01933A-19-0028
Response to Late-filed ACC Staff Testimony of Devi Glick in Docket No. E-01933A-19-0028
Report on the impacts of utility investment in developing competitive markets, particularly with respect to electric vehicle infrastructure.
- You wonder if the electric grid can handle the increases in electricity consumption as more consumers purchase electric vehicles
- You want to learn about good rate design for EVs
- You love nerdy webinars!
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.
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