In collaboration with partners from Harvard University, the University of Delaware, and Boston University, Synapse modeled the climate, air quality, and health benefits of offshore wind facilities in the Mid-Atlantic United States. The study simulated benefits of offshore wind facilities of different sizes in two locations that are in early stages of planning and development. The results demonstrated that these offshore facilities can produce health and climate benefits of between $54 and $120 per MWh of generation. The project was a joint effort of Synapse, the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health, the University of Delaware College of Earth, Ocean & Environment, and the Boston University School of Public Health Department of Environmental Health. Environmental Research Letters published the findings in its July 2016 volume.
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Bruce Biewald presented “How the Electric Grid Works: Dispatch, Planning, and Regulation” as a guest lecturer at the MIT Course “Electricity, Economics, and the Environment” on February 13, 2014.
Synapse was hired by the Idaho Conservation League to collect information on the sources of Idaho's existing electricity supply and the potential for efficiency and renewables in the state. The League was interested in understanding the current fuel mix of the generation serving Idaho and the amount of this electricity that is generated out of state. Synapse pulled information from the IRPs of the three Idaho IOUs and other sources to characterize the state's current electricity fuels. Synapse also presented information on renewable energy potentials in Idaho and reviewed the assumptions about efficiency and renewables in the utilities' IRPs, identifying areas where these assumptions were not consistent with the literature. Project completed February 2014.
Synapse provided testimony on behalf of Citizens Action Coalition of Indiana regarding Indianapolis Power and Light's (IPL) application for the construction of a new natural gas combined-cycle plant. Synapse found that the Company had likely overestimated future capacity prices and relied on flawed modeling methodology to determine the project's need (among other issues).
Testimony of Jeremy Fisher Regarding Indianapolis Power & Light Company Petition to Replace Retiring Thermal Generators with a Combined Cycle Generation Turbine
Synapse provided expert services to the Sierra Club related to Louisville Gas & Electric Company and Kentucky Utilities’ (the Companies) joint application to continue and amend their demand-side management (DSM) programs and implement a revised DSM tariff (Kentucky PSC Case No. 2014-00003). Working with Sierra Club attorneys, Synapse reviewed and drafted testimony on the Companies’ proposed DSM Plan, discovery responses, and supporting documentation, including an energy efficiency potential study and historical review of the Companies’ DSM programs. Synapse’s testimony documented, among other concerns, that the Companies had not considered the opportunities available from industrial DSM programs, despite an interest among their industrial customers for such programs, and were therefore likely missing opportunities to achieve a significant amount of cost-effective savings. As a result of this testimony, the Commission found in its November 14 order that the Companies should commission a study that examines the potential benefits of industrial DSM programs.
Synapse provided expert services for Sierra Club and Earthjustice in reviewing Lousiville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities' filing for a proposed new 700 MW natural gas combined-cycle (NGCC) plant. The Company later withdrew the application for the new construction due to loss of load.
The Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System (M-RETS) tracks information about renewable energy production and delivery in participating states and provinces (Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Manitoba, Minnesota, Montana, North Dakota, Ohio, South Dakota, and Wisconsin). For this project, Synapse created a model to explore alternatives to the Midwest Renewable Energy Tracking System’s (M-RETS) previous fee structure, benchmarked model forecasts to actual data, and created a matrix of Renewable Portfolio Standards tariffs in the M-RETS region.
Following the devastating impact from Superstorm Sandy, Public Service Electric and Gas Company introduced a 10-year, $3.9 billion investment program for grid hardening and grid resiliency. The company’s petition sought $2.6 billion in rate recovery over five years. Almost 18 months after the initial petition, the Company reached a settlement with intervening parties for $1.2 billion over three years. In the whitepaper “Making the Grid More Resilient within Reason,” Synapse identified themes and lessons from our involvement in the case on behalf of New Jersey Rate Counsel for consumer advocates to ensure that utilities develop reasonable and prudent programs to plan for major outage events. These themes include: understanding proper goals, understanding cost-effectiveness analysis, ensuring proper planning, and preventing gold-plating.
Synapse and its subcontractor, Nancy Brockway, assisted the Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) in docket DPU 14-04, an investigation into Time Varying Rates (TVR). Time-varying rate structures can provide valuable signals to customers regarding the costs of service at different times of the day, week, and year. These signals can help to reduce demand during expensive peak periods, thereby reducing electricity costs. In assisting the DOER prepare comments, Synapse evaluated whether TVR should be offered for basic service, and offered recommendations for developing a menu of rate design options that could be expanded over time. Synapse also analyzed the experience in other jurisdictions with opt-out versus opt-in TVR structures, and recommended the adoption of certain customer protection measures. Finally, Synapse assessed the merits of adopting peak-time rebate programs in Massachusetts.
Synapse assisted the Mississippi Public Service Commission (PSC) in Docket No. 2011-AD-2, a proceeding opened to develop and implement net metering and implementation standards for Mississippi. Synapse conducted a comprehensive cost-benefit analysis for net metering and interconnection in Mississippi, to help the PSC make an informed decision regarding the costs and benefits and assist it in developing appropriate policies for the state. Synapse assessed both the direct and indirect costs and benefits of net metering and interconnection—whether under a net metering and interconnection or alternative policy scenario—and considered and quantified both energy-related and non-energy costs and benefits. Based on the findings of the Synapse report, the Commission found it is in the best interest of ratepayers to proceed with the development of proposed net metering and interconnection rules.
Synapse estimated the economic impacts of investment in wind, solar PV, and energy efficiency in Montana. The project team used the IMPLAN model to determine direct, indirect, and induced impacts in terms of jobs per million dollars of spending on construction and O&M for each resource. These results were then translated to jobs per average megawatt of energy produced over the next 20 years to allow for an apples-to-apples comparison across resources.
Nebraska Public Power District (NPPD) invited independent reviews of its recent planning exercises, including its 2012 Generation Options Analysis (GOA) and its February 2013 NPPD Draft Integrated Resource Plan (Draft IRP). Sierra Club retained Synapse to review NPPD’s Draft IRP and to provide expert comments on this iteration of the planning process.
Synapse assisted NEEP and EPA to develop information regarding how energy efficiency (EE) is used in system planning studies in the Northeast. Synapse reviewed current practices by PJM, NY ISO, and ISO-NE and compared their treatment of EE in system planning with recommendations by EPA and the Lawrence Berkley National Laboratory (LBNL). After review of the information by EPA, Synapse helped prepare and participate in meetings with key stakeholders on how EE can be used in developing state implementation plans (SIPs) to comply with EPA regulations. After the meetings, Synapse participated in a regional forum open to all stakeholders on the use of EE forecasts for system planning and SIPs.
Thomas Vitolo presented "Net Metering and Mississippi" at the 13th Annual Southern BioProducts and Renewable Energy Conference in Hattiesburg, Mississippi on November 13, 2014.
Synapse provided expert advice on and analysis of energy efficiency and CHP 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’ monthly performance, designs and budgets, avoided energy supply cost estimates, cost-benefit analyses, energy savings protocols, EM&V studies, and overall administrative structure. We also periodically reviewed and commented on New Jersey Energy Master Plans, and on a three-year energy efficiency program plan called the Comprehensive Resource Analyses.
Synapse helped the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel analyze the request by New Jersey Natural Gas Company and South Jersey Gas Company to continue their respective Conservation Incentive Programs, under which they are allowed to retain a portion of the gas supply capacity savings avoided as a result of reductions in customer usage due to the utilities' efficiency programs. Project completed June 2014.
The New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel retained Synapse to determine the reasonableness of New Jersey Natural Gas Company's proposed negotiated rates and terms for gas transportation and balancing services to the Red Oak generating facility. Project completed January 2014.
Synapse provided technical support and expert modeling to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board (NS UARB) during the course of the 2014 Integrated Resource Plan (IRP) development by Nova Scotia Power. In collaboration with Nova Scotia Power and the staff and other consultants of the NS UARB, Synapse helped to develop an analysis plan, critiqued Strategist model input assumptions, provided alternative assumptions, conducted modeling of alternative Candidate Resource Plans, and filed detailed comments with the NS UARB on NSP’s final 2014 IRP. Synapse’s work contributed towards development of an approved long-term IRP that contained a “mid-level” investment by NSP into demand-side management (DSM) resources.
Filing to the Nova Scotia Utility and Review Board on Nova Scotia Powers October 15, 2014 Integrated Resource Plan: Key Planning Observations and Action Plan Elements
Synapse provided expert services in a PacifiCorp multi-state IRP development stakeholder process on behalf of the Sierra Club. As part of this project, Synapse reviewed the PacifiCorp 2013 IRP and all supporting workpapers; reviewed stakeholder materials provided in the PacifiCorp 2013 IRP development; reviewed new emerging regulations and proposed regulatory guidelines for consistency with IRP assumptions; issued discovery to the Company to elicit details, assumptions, and modeling files; and participated in stakeholder calls. Synapse submitted comments on PacifiCorp’s IRP in Oregon and Washington.
Sierra Club Preliminary Comments on Pacificorp 2013 Integrated Resource Plan in Washington Docket UE-120416
Synapse provided expert testimony for a PacifiCorp general rate case regarding the prudence of environmental retrofits undertaken in the 2012-2013 timeframe. Synapse filed direct testimony in Utah and Wyoming and attended hearings in Utah. The case in Wyoming was settled.
Direct Testimony of Jeremy Fisher in the Matter of the Application of Rocky Mountain Power for Authority to Increase its Retail Rates in Utah
Synapse reviewed the rate design and cost recovery aspects of PEPCO's Dynamic Pricing proposal for residential customers in the District of Columbia. Project completed June 2014.
Atlantic City Electric petitioned the New Jersey Board of Public Utilities to request an increase of $61.65 million ($65.95 million including Sales and Use Tax) in distribution rates. This would result in a monthly bill increase of $9.57 or 5.62% (for a customer using 1,000 kWh/month). Synapse assisted the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel by performing a technical and engineering assessment of the costs associated with the Company’s petition, a prudency review of costs and benefits associated with the Company’s petition, and a review of the Company’s reliability performance.
Synapse conducted PLEXOS production cost modeling and examining California investor-owned utility (CA IOU) filings pertaining to various rate design considerations in California. In particular, Synapse examined patterns of marginal costs for CA IOUs, assessing greenhouse gas emissions under different time-of-use (TOU) pricing periods, and reviewing proposed TOU periods that may reflect the changing shape of California’s “net load” curves due to the presence of increasing amounts of renewable resources, especially solar.
Reply Testimony of Bob Fagan and Patrick Luckow Regarding the Relationship between California Investor Owned Utilities Hourly Load Profiles under a Time-of-Use Pricing and GHG Emissions in the WECC Regions
Testimony on Pacific Gas and Electric’s Marginal Energy Costs and LOLE Allocation Among TOU Periods
Bruce Biewald presented "Protecting Consumers from Bad Utility Planning" at the Electricity Consumers Resource Council Fall Workshop in Washington, DC on October 21, 2014. Mr. Biewald provided examples of poor utility planning and discussed what should be done by utilities, regulators, and consumer and environmental advocates to improve planning practices.
Synapse provided consulting services to the New Jersey Division of Rate Counsel regarding the petition filed by the Public Service Electric and Gas Company (PSEG) requesting that the storm costs incurred in 2011 and 2012 be considered reasonable and prudent. Synapse analyzed the petition, prepared and reviewed discovery questions, and assisted in hearing participation. The Synapse work focused on a technical and engineering assessment, as well as a prudency review, of the costs associated with the Company’s response to five major storm events.
On behalf of the New Jersey Division of the Rate Counsel, Synapse analyzed, reviewed, and issued discovery requests regarding the energy efficiency and demand response components of the Public Service Electric and Gas (PSE&G) filing to adjust its Green Programs Recovery Charges. Key issues included program performance and cost effectiveness. Project completed in February 2014.
The Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) retained Synapse to provide expert witness services in a docket related to the prudence of Public Service of New Hampshire’s (PSNH’s) scrubber project at Merrimack Station (NH PUC Order N. 25,546). Synapse analyzed and presented testimony on issues related to whether or not Merrimack’s scrubber project was prudent, used, and useful in the context of contemporaneous market and regulatory conditions.
Synapse assisted the Vermont Public Service Department in evaluating the rate and bill impacts of the 2014-2034 Vermont Energy Efficiency Plan. Our analysis included rate, bill and participation estimates, both for historical impacts from the past ten years and future impacts for the next 20 years. The analysis included an innovative "bottom up" approach that more accurately captures the impact on rates from efficiency programs. Cost-effective energy efficiency resources will typically result in lower bills but higher rates. Synapse’s analysis investigated the magnitude of the higher rates relative to the lower bills for each customer sector (residential, business non-demand, and business demand customers), as well as for different types of customers (participants, non-participants, and customers on average).
The Board cited Synapse's report extensively in its Order in the 2013-2014 Demand Resources Plan Proceeding, and adopted Synapse's recommendation that the Energy Efficiency Utilities (“EEUs”) collect and report better data on customer participation, which is a key component in understanding the implications of rate and bill impacts.
The Maine Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) hired Synapse to assist in reviewing the 2014 Alternative Rate Plan proposed by Central Maine Power (CMP). As part of this review, Synapse assessed the reasonableness of CMP’s initial capital investment mechanism and advised the OPA on its Motion to Dismiss. Synapse evaluated CMP’s revised proposal for recovering capital investment costs and the degree to which the proposal fails to achieve the goals of performance-based ratemaking. Synapse also conducted an in-depth review of the Company’s revenue decoupling proposal. In addition to technical support on specific topics, Synapse developed policy-level testimony to synthesize the findings on all of the issues addressed by OPA to provide overall policy recommendations. Synapse provided support during the settlement process, and Tim Woolf testified at the hearings.
Surrebuttal Testimony Regarding Central Maine Powers Request for an Alternative Rate Plan
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