Synapse performed a study to examine opportunities for, barriers to, and economic impacts of energy storage deployment in the context of Colorado’s changing energy landscape. The resulting report discussed: storage’s role in meeting clean energy targets; existing facilities, industries, and legislation related to storage; available commercial technologies and their services to the grid; state barriers and example solutions from other states; and the impact of various policy scenarios on the energy storage in Colorado's future, based on electric system modeling results.
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The late January 2019 Polar Vortex weather event brought extreme temperatures to the upper Midwest through New England – the same stretch of the country where the most fossil fuels are used to heat buildings. As it becomes clear that a decarbonized electric grid is possible, “#ElectrifyEverything” has become a rallying cry for the path to transportation and building decarbonization. In this webinar, we explore the hypothetical: What if all the buildings from the Dakotas, to the Ohio River Valley, through Maine were heated with cold climate heat pumps instead? We estimate the impact on hourly peak electric loads, and we use this to tee up and discuss questions about what a cost-effective plan to decarbonize these buildings would need to address.
As a continuation of previous work, Synapse provided counsel to the NS UARB with technical consulting services on demand side management (DSM) issues. As part of the project, Alice Napoleon submitted evidence on EfficiencyOne’s proposed 2020-2022 Demand Side Management Resource Plan. In addition, Synapse conducted analysis and provided comments on proposals to modify the DSM rate and bill impact model, to develop a methodology for calculating avoided transmission and distribution system costs, and to design a program to target DSM at locations where distribution system investment can be avoided. Synapse also analyzed and critiqued a DSM potential study, and an analysis of potential bias in the program administrator's projections of energy savings and spending.
Synapse Comments on EfficiencyOne Performance Alignment Study - M09096
Synapse Comments on EfficiencyOne's 2019 Rate and Bill Impact Analysis and Model - M09471
A new report produced by Synapse Energy Economics, the Regulatory Assistance Project, and Community Action Partnership—with support from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation—takes an in-depth look at the disparate impacts electric and natural gas infrastructure have on economic, social, and health outcomes—and consider how to ensure that a clean-energy future is a more equitable future. The report finds a variety of opportunities for policymakers, including policies to make energy more affordable for vulnerable communities, expand access to energy, reduce environmental hazards, and create jobs in the clean energy transition. The report also includes case studies from municipalities, states, and regions across the country that are working to achieve these goals. The small city of Bloomfield, Iowa, has taken charge of its energy future, transforming its approach to resource planning, investing in efficiency and solar power, and spurring local development. In Ohio, a statewide arrearage management program provides a model for protecting customers from utility shutoffs. In Minnesota, Xcel Energy and the state’s utility regulators are working together to implement performance-based regulation, with benchmarks for improving customer service quality and workforce diversity. And the 10 northeastern states that participate in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative are reducing carbon dioxide emissions (and other pollution) from power plants, improving environmental conditions and community health outcomes. This report highlights these successes and provides policymakers with insights into how to create a successful – and economically inclusive – transition to a clean energy future.
For further insights on this report, read our blog post here.
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
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.
Synapse's Ben Havumaki and Tim Woolf lead an afternoon conversation about grid modernization that both addresses broad themes and zooms into the nitty gritty. Topics include:
- Overview of key concepts in grid mod
- Benefit-cost analysis, including how to select an appropriate cost test for grid mod projects
- Challenges in quantifying costs and benefits
- Customer equity
- Best practices
- Case studies of recent utility-facing grid modernization plans
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.
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 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.
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
CEP Comments on Future of Value Stack
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’sJanuary 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.
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 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.
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