Synapse

A strategy to reduce greenhouse gas emissions 80 percent from 1990 levels by 2050 would create hundreds of thousands of new jobs in addition to reducing the total costs of energy services and stabilizing the climate, according to new analysis released today.

Avi Allison joins Synapse as an associate. He was previously a research assistant at the Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy, where he gathered and analyzed data used to create an international Environmental Performance Index that ranks how well countries perform on high-priority environmental issues. Ariel Horowitz, PhD, joins us as a senior associate after completing her doctoral thesis on the field of energy storage at Tufts University.

Under EPA’s final Clean Power Plan, states must submit initial compliance plans or demonstrate progress toward that goal by September 2016. The Synapse Clean Power Plan Toolkit can help state agencies, public interest groups, and others zero in on cost-effective compliance plan options for any state or region affected by the rulemaking.

The proposed merger between Exelon Corporation and Pepco Holdings Incorporated (PHI) will likely be rejected after the District of Columbia Public Service Commission denied the petition on August 27, ruling that the $6.4 billion transaction is not in the public interest.

In a series of recent briefs on the consumer costs of low-emissions futures, Synapse demonstrates that a Clean Energy Future scenario that exceeds the emissions targets of EPA’s Clean Power Plan can also lower electricity bills nationwide. The idea that investing heavily in clean energy and energy efficiency programs will save households money may be surprising to some, but in the third and final brief in the series, released today, Synapse discusses the logic behind why this is the case and why—if it’s so appealing—states haven’t already embarked on similar trajectories.

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.

EPA’s final Clean Power Plan differs from the version proposed last year in several non-trivial ways. In fact, the basic framework of the rule—the way in which the EPA sets states’ targets for emissions reductions and the options for meeting those targets—has changed. As part of our ongoing series of webinars on the final Clean Power Plan, Synapse will present a webinar next Tuesday that drills into the details of EPA’s new method for calculating states’ targets and the differences between the seven compliance pathways (of which there were two in the proposed rule).

A key benefit of renewable energy is that electricity generated from new renewable resources displaces electricity generated from other types of power plants. In doing so, renewables reduce the consumption of fossil fuel and production of fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide emissions. In the Clean Power Plan originally proposed by EPA in June 2014, this effect was ignored when setting emissions targets for states: EPA’s formula omitted this effect. In the final version of the rule, released Monday, states’ targets do account for emissions displaced by renewable generation.

Investing in high levels of clean energy and widespread energy efficiency programs can save money for a majority of households in each of the contiguous states, according to a Synapse modeling study released today. The analysis, part of a series of briefs on the impacts of EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan on consumers, shows that households participating in state-sponsored efficiency programs can save an average of $35 on their monthly bills in 2030. Even non-participants will save money in 16 states.

A new study from Synapse shows that pursuing a cleaner energy future will help reduce consumer costs while lowering greenhouse gas emissions. The first in a series of briefs on the study, released today, describes the results of a Clean Energy Future scenario developed by Synapse. Synapse found that electric consumers can save $41 billion in the year 2040 as compared to business as usual if states pursue clean energy options.

One of the key benefits associated with energy efficiency and renewable energy programs (clean energy) is that they reduce consumption of fossil fuel resources, and in doing so reduce fossil fuel-related carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions. A report released by Synapse today provides evidence that clean energy resources have indeed displaced emissions—at a rate of up to 0.80 metric tons of CO2 per megawatt-hour, depending on the region and the type of alternative resource deployed—and are projected to continue to do so in the future.

New report says small but critical changes to the current power system will improve integration of large amounts of renewables over the next five years.

The National Association of Clean Air Agencies (NACAA) yesterday released a technical document identifying a wide range of technologies, programs, and policies that agencies might employ to comply with EPA’s Clean Power Plan. The document, Implementing EPA’s Clean Power Plan: A Menu of Options, contains 26 chapters, each exploring a different approach to reducing emissions.

The flexibility of EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plans allows for many potential pathways to compliance, and state consumer advocates now have a roadmap to navigate their decision-making process. Synapse today published a report on behalf of the National Association for State Utility Consumer Advocates (NASUCA) that will help consumer advocates work with other state agencies and stakeholders to develop a compliance plan that not only meets EPA’s emissions targets but protects consumers from shouldering the burden of excessive implementation costs.

After hiring Synapse to conduct a cost-benefit analysis of net metering and interconnection in Mississippi, the Public Service Commission released proposed rules on April 7 that would implement net metering and interconnection standards.

The Public Utilities Commission of Ohio denied on Thursday the price stabilization rider attached to Duke Energy Ohio’s proposed electric security plan, holding with Synapse and with numerous other intervenors concerned that the rider could be detrimental to ratepayers. Synapse associate Sarah Jackson testified in October 2014 that the rider—which would pass on the net costs or benefits associated with the sale of generation from Duke’s Ohio Valley Electric Corporation (OVEC) assets into the PJM market to its customers—could cost consumers millions through 2024.

Synapse released a report on Wednesday based on the latest version of its Coal Asset Valuation Tool (CAVT), which shows that the United States could save roughly $262 billion over the next three decades by shutting down a significant portion of its coal plants and replacing them with less expensive alternatives. The report demonstrates how a variety of factors, including aging infrastructure, more stringent environmental regulations, and lower natural gas prices, are converging to make the majority of coal plants uneconomic.

In 2014, Synapse worked with Regional Economic Models, Inc. (REMI) on two projects to integrate Synapse’s in-house version of ReEDS, a detailed electricity sector optimization model developed by NREL, with REMI’s macroeconomic analysis tool, PI+. This integration gives a high-resolution view of the effect of changing energy prices and investment decisions on job creation, GDP, and income, as well as differential impacts by income group, industry, or region. Synapse and REMI analyzed both a nationwide and a Massachusetts-specific carbon tax.

The EPA’s proposed Clean Power Plan allows states the flexibility to collaborate with each other to develop plans on a multi-state basis to meet compliance targets. State agencies and advocates examining such opportunities for cooperation can use Synapse’s Clean Power Planning Tool (CP3T), now with multi-state functionality, to analyze the challenges and opportunities associated with regional compliance.

Long used to encourage utilities to meet reliability, safety, and energy efficiency targets, performance incentive mechanisms are increasingly being used by regulators to address new challenges and opportunities facing the electric industry, ranging from smart grid adoption to clean energy goals.

Synapse recently prepared a regulatory guidance document on several key principles of energy efficiency cost-effectiveness screening for the NEEP Regional Evaluation, Measurement and Verification Forum. The EM&V Forum subsequently adopted the Cost-Effectiveness Screening Principles and Guidelines as a Forum product.

Synapse projects in its 2015 Carbon Dioxide Price Forecast that the cost of emitting one short ton of carbon dioxide in 2020 will be $15-$25, rising to $25-$54 in 2030 and $45-$120 in 2050. Synapse forecasts Low, Mid, and High CO2 price trajectories annually for planning purposes, to provide electric utilities and other stakeholders with a reasonable range of emissions costs that can be used to evaluate long-term resource investment decisions.

Synapse CEO and founder Bruce Biewald presented on energy efficiency as a resource for compliance with EPA’s Clean Power Plan at the 2015 NASEO Energy Policy Outlook Conference in Washington, DC on February 5. His presentation, part of a panel on privately delivered energy efficiency, included a discussion of how analysis using Synapse’s Clean Power Plan Planning Tool can help to understand and estimate the benefits of energy efficiency as an element of state CPP compliance plans.

Synapse has welcomed four new team member since Fall 2014. Ezgi Karaca joins us as a research fellow, Jenny Marusiak as marketing and proposal manager, Wendy Ong as an associate, and Nidhi R. Santen as a principal associate.

If New Hampshire backed out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI), it would result in higher bills for New Hampshire consumers and would eliminate the least expensive way for the state to comply with upcoming federal regulations, Synapse’s Dr. Elizabeth A. Stanton testified on Thursday.

Synapse associate Sarah Jackson recently testified before the Public Utilities Commission of Ohio that the price stabilization rider (PSR) attached to Duke Energy Ohio’s proposed electric security plan could cost consumers millions through 2024.

New York Times columnist Eduardo Porter quoted Dr. Elizabeth A. Stanton, a senior economist at Synapse, in his recent discussion on the tension between economic development and efforts to cut greenhouse gas emissions in Latin America.

The Kentucky Public Service Commission found in a November 14 order that two utilities in the state should commission a study that examines the potential benefits of industrial demand-side management programs.

Dr. Elizabeth A. Stanton presented on the impact of EPA's Clean Power Plan to consumers at the NASUCA 2014 Annual Meeting in San Francisco last week. She was joined by Synapse CEO Bruce Biewald (second from right) in presenting Implications of EPA’s Proposed “Clean Power Plan”: Analyzing Consumer Impacts of the Draft Rule, a Synapse report that will serve as a common resource to help NASUCA’s members think through a broad range of potential implications of various compliance approaches to their respective consumers.

Clean Power Plan Planning Tool (CP3T): A walkthrough of Synapse’s free tool for state compliance

Register today for a free webinar with Synapse’s Patrick Knight, CP3T developer

Date: Friday, November 21, 2014

Time: 1:00 – 1:45 p.m. EST

Register for Webinar: Click here

When the Clean Power Plan was announced in June 2014, EPA issued proposed carbon reduction goals using a rate approach (pounds of CO2 per MWh of electricity generation), but indicated that states would have the option to convert these rate-based targets to mass-based targets (pounds of CO2). Yesterday, EPA released further guidance on how states might translate the rate-based goals to mass-based equivalents.

Synapse associate Pat Knight presented on the forthcoming Clean Power Plan Planning Tool at Sierra Club’s Clean Energy Beyond Coal Conference in San Francisco on October 9. The tool, which will help states plan for compliance with EPA’s 111(d) regulation, will be available on the Synapse website next month.

In its Reforming the Energy Vision proceeding, the New York Public Service Commission has undertaken an ambitious initiative to improve the New York electricity system through better incorporation of distributed energy resources (DERs): distributed generation, distributed storage, energy efficiency, and demand response.

The Global Commission on the Economy and Climate released a report last week that finds that low-carbon economic growth is possible for countries at all levels of development, if governments and businesses work together over the critical period of the next 15 years.

Will potential new EPA ozone restrictions have devastating effects on the U.S. economy? That’s the claim made by a recent NERA Economic Consulting study. Cautioning media outlets to think and write critically about such claims, Media Matters for America published an article citing experts—including Synapse senior economist Frank Ackerman—who enumerated the methodological faults of the study.

Policymakers, researchers, and advocates seeking reliable, high-quality information about the electric power sector will find a wealth of resources on Synapse’s newly designed website, launched in September 2014.

The site features:

The Vermont Public Service Board (Board) cited a Synapse report extensively in its July 9 Order in the 2014-2034 Vermont Energy Efficiency Plan Proceeding, and adopted Synapse’s recommendation that the state’s Energy Efficiency Utilities (EEUs) collect and report better data on customer participation so as to better understand repeat participation.

Synapse has developed a tool to estimate states’ electric-sector costs and benefits of Section 111(d) of the Clean Air Act.

Register Today for a Free Webinar with Synapse's Dr. Elizabeth A. Stanton

Date: Thursday, June 19, 2014
Time: 1:30 - 3:30 p.m. EDT
Register for Webinar: Click here

In the rush to interpret EPA's draft 111(d) rule for limiting CO2 emissions at existing power plants, a number of sources have mischaracterized or misunderstood key elements and implications.

Synapse's Frank Ackerman will join climatologist James Hansen to discuss carbon policy on NPR's On Point tomorrow, May 20 at 10 a.m. Ackerman and Hansen, along with a speaker from the Competitive Enterprise Institute, will debate carbon price issues such as the design of a revenue-neutral carbon tax and the merits of taxes versus cap-and-trade systems.

On February 27, Bruce Biewald, Synapse founder and CEO, testified at a House Energy and Power Subcommittee hearing on “Benefits of and Challenges to Energy Access in the 21st Century: Electricity.” Mr. Biewald spoke about the practice of estimating a future CO2 price in electric utility planning, which is becoming increasingly common in the United States. 

Bruce Biewald

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s State & Local Climate and Energy program will host a webinar next Tuesday, March 18, on the newly released AVERT (Avoided Emissions and Generation Tool), an open-access tool built by Synapse to allow states and other stakeholders to estimate the hourly emissions benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies and programs.

Today the EPA released AVERT (Avoided Emissions and Generation Tool), an open-access tool built by Synapse to allow states and other stakeholders to estimate the hourly emissions benefits of energy efficiency and renewable energy policies and programs. AVERT allows non-expert users to measure emissions of CO2, SO2, and NOX mitigated by state or multi-state programs.

AVERT

Planning for the future price of emitting one ton of carbon dioxide can seem like a game of chance, in which electric utilities and other stakeholders are forced to bet on uncertainties. However, considering state and regional policies that are already in play—as well as proposed federal legislation aimed at reducing emissions—it would be a bigger gamble for utilities to assume that there will be a CO2 price of zero in the long run.

Synapse recently assisted Michigan’s Public Service Commission and State Energy Office in evaluating the economics of the state’s energy efficiency programs by surveying cost-effectiveness screening practices in Michigan and in eight other states: Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, Minnesota, New York, Oregon, Vermont, and Wisconsin.

Synapse’s Dr. Elizabeth A. Stanton testifies on the expansion of the Vermont Gas Network

Atrazine, the chemical weed killer used on tens of millions of acres of corn in the U.S., is hazardous to our health and to the environment. Evidence suggests that exposure to atrazine damages men and women’s reproductive health, weakens immune systems in wildlife, and may contribute to the risk of cancer. So what’s the tradeoff? In 2011, five papers sponsored by Syngenta, a European company that produces atrazine, claimed that the potent, low-cost herbicide has huge economic benefits.

Benefits of Reducing New England Energy Use Include Lower Energy Prices and Carbon Dioxide Emissions in Addition to Energy Cost Savings

There is almost one gigawatt of energy-saving distributed generation (DG) resources installed across New England, Synapse found in a report prepared for the E4 Group—and state policies, together with falling technology costs, could lead to the installation of nearly two more gigawatts by 2021.

Last week, President Obama announced his plan to reduce carbon pollution in the United States, tasking the EPA with creating a strategy to set limits on carbon emissions from power plants by June 2014. A number of opponents of the measure claimed that any such strategy would cost the country jobs; however, Synapse recently examined the broad economic impacts of a similar carbon emissions standard proposed by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) and found this plan would result in a net increase in jobs.
 

Preliminary data for 2012 from the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) indicate that, for the first time, more wind generating capacity was brought online than any other resource type to meet the nation’s electricity needs. Net wind capacity additions totaled 10,043 megawatts (MW) in 2012, while net natural gas capacity additions totaled 7,206 MW. The EIA data also indicate that:

According to a new Synapse study, produced on behalf of the Civil Society Institute, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) has grossly misrepresented the costs and impacts of renewable energy.