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As more and more governments and corporations commit to a zero-carbon future, the need for large amounts of renewable energy installations over the coming decades increases. In densely populated New England, there is limited space for large-scale installations of solar panels.

This has sparked discussion and debate about the carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions tradeoff between installing solar panels and maintaining current land-use practices. To investigate the issue further, Synapse set out to answer the following questions within New England:

Last month, the Orlando Utilities Commission (OUC) announced a plan to stop burning coal by 2027 at the Stanton Energy Center. This plan is a pivotal first step to Orlando meeting its 2050 commitment to 100% renewable energy. The leadership of Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer and on-the-ground advocacy efforts by the First 50 Coalition (armed with expert analysis performed by Synapse Energy Economics) were critical in catalyzing this announcement and commitment by the OUC.

On January 17, 2019, Brown University announced it would be converting a Rhode Island gravel pit into a 250 acre, 50 megawatt (MW) solar facility. This project is expected to offset 70 percent of the university’s electric load. To address Brown’s remaining supply needs, the university plans to enter into a power purchase agreement (PPA) with an 8 MW wind facility in Texas.

On February 11, 2019, ISO New England published its latest draft distributed solar (“DG PV”) forecast. As in previous years, ISO New England has developed this forecast based on historical data and information about public policies in the six New England states. These policies include state renewable portfolio standard (RPS) policies, long-term procurements, net energy metering, federal tax credits, and other drivers.

On November 26, 2018, Massachusetts’ new SMART program went into effect. SMART stands for Solar Massachusetts Renewable Target. It is a program designed to replace the previous Solar Renewable Energy Certificate (SREC) program as one of the primary means of incentivizing distributed solar installations in the Commonwealth.

On May 1, 2017, ISO-NE released CELT 2017, its latest forecast for electricity demand in New England. As the independent system operator, ISO-NE is responsible for coordinating electric generation and sales in New England and for ensuring the reliable operation of the region’s electric grid.

The District of Columbia’s aggressive support of distributed energy resources includes a 2016 Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) requirement that 50 percent of retail electricity sales come from renewable energy by 2032, with 5 percent coming from solar. While the District’s solar capacity has grown quickly in recent years, existing capacity falls short of its current targets.

Synapse is thrilled to announce the release of a new report, Show Me the Numbers: A Framework for Balanced Distributed Solar Policies.

At a webinar last week, Clean Power Plan - New Policy or New Normal?,” Synapse’s Dr. Elizabeth A. Stanton hosted Senior Associates Patrick Luckow and Pat Knight for a conversation about how declining costs of both natural gas and solar power impact clean energy planning.

New federal environmental regulations call for substantial emissions reductions from U.S. power grids. For a system designed for fossil fuel resources, this will mean transforming the grid to accommodate large increases in renewable energy resources. Opponents of such regulations claim that the integration of these resources will impose high costs on the system, in particular those related to maintaining reliability standards. A new Synapse study finds that these claims are overblown, and that the costs to integrate increased amounts of wind and solar energy are minimal. Actual costs found by integration studies across the country are on the order of half a cent per kilowatt-hour of energy the resource produces, according to the Synapse literature review.

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