2017 annual update of South Carolina Electric & Gas' (SCE&G) avoided costs, to be used in both PURPA QF rates and for Act 236 compliance. Witness Thomas Vitolo, PhD, submitted testimony (Docket No. 2017-2-E).
You can browse all project descriptions (below), or narrow the search results by selecting one or more filters (topic area, client, etc.).
Synapse provides technical and policy support to the Rhode Island Division of Public Utilities and Carriers. Much of the support includes full participation in the RI Energy Efficiency Collaborative. The work includes all aspects of energy efficiency program design, implementation, and review related to the Narragansett Electric programs, which are some of the most aggressive and successful efficiency programs in the US. It also includes a comprehensive analysis of the rate, bill, and participation impacts of the energy efficiency programs.
Now updated to include the Clean Power Plan and other relevant regulations, the Synapse CO2 price forecasts reflect a reasonable range of expectations regarding future efforts to limit greenhouse gas emissions. Prudent planning requires that utilities and stakeholders take this cost into account when engaging in resource planning. Our forecast, updated annually, includes low, mid, and high case projections for CO2 prices out to 2040 based on thorough analysis of proposed federal regulatory measures, ongoing state and regional policies, the price of CO2 already being factored into federal rulemakings, recent CO2 price forecasts from utility IRPs, and policy analysis and modeling from the research community.
2015 Carbon Dioxide Price Forecast
CO2 Price Report, Spring 2014: Includes 2013 CO2 Price Forecast
2013 Carbon Dioxide Price Forecast
2012 Carbon Dioxide Price Forecast
As new, more stringent federal environmental regulations come into effect, the fleet of U.S. coal-fired power plants is becoming increasingly less economic in comparison to the alternative of electricity market purchases. Numerous industry groups, environmental advocates, and government agencies have published estimates of the U.S. coal capacity at risk of retirement. However, all of these estimates have been conservative in that they have excluded the costs of installing and operating some of the controls expected to be required for compliance with environmental regulations, and/or they have assumed a long-run carbon-emission price of zero. This study explores a more comprehensive set of assumptions, using Synapse's Coal Asset Valuation Tool (CAVT). CAVT (now on version 6.0) is a spreadsheet-based database and model that forecasts the costs for individual coal units to comply with environmental regulations, and compares these forecasts to electricity market prices. It includes cost estimates for all expected environmental retrofits along with carbon prices.
Forecasting Coal Unit Competitiveness: Coal Retirement Assessment Using Synapse Coal Asset Valuation Tool (CAVT)
Synapse provided technical and policy support for several aspects related to the NY REV Initiative. This included drafting detailed comments and reply comments on the New York Utilities' proposed Distribution System Implementation Plans, with an emphasis on ensuring that distributed energy resources are properly planned for and implemented. It also included a detailed review of NY energy efficiency activities and recommendations for how to promote the implementation of all cost-effective energy efficiency resources as part of the NY REV initiatives. This work also included technical support for estimates of avoided distribution costs at constrained locations on the grid; i.e., the "value of D."
The National Standard Practice Manual and the Value of Energy Efficiency in New York
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
On June 10, 2014, the Maine Public Utilities Commission issued a Notice of Inquiry (NOI) into the design and implementation of a methodology to determine the value of distributed solar energy in the state of Maine. To inform the inquiry, which served as the first step in designing a study mandated by legislation to support solar energy development in Maine (P.L. 2013 CH. 562), the Commission asked interested parties to respond to questions detailed in the NOI. Synapse assisted the Maine Office of the Public Advocate (OPA) in responding to the inquiry, and later in developing comments on the subsequent draft value of solar methodology issued by the PUC on October 30, 2014.
The OPA’s comments on the draft methodology include recommendations on assumptions about fuel price escalation and heat rate, and suggested modifications to the technical and economic analysis that would more closely align the methodology with best practices.
Comments of the Office of the Public Advocate on the Notice of Inquiry into the Determination of the Value of Distributed Solar Energy Generation in Maine
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.
Avoided Energy Supply Costs in New England 2018 study materials:
- AESC 2018 Report - October Re-Release
- AESC 2018 Report - June Re-Release
- AESC 2018 Report - March 30 Release
- Click here to download the User Interfaces.
- Appendices for the AESC 2018 Report and a slide deck with study results can be found below.
For more information about the AESC study, please visit our project page.
Synapse has also conducted supplemental analysis on the avoided costs of compliance of the Massachusetts Global Warming Solutions Act. Visit here for more details.
Appendix C - AESC 2018
Appendix D - AESC 2018
Appendix J - AESC 2018
AESC 2018 Presentation of Results
Synapse testified on behalf of the Illinois Attorney General, recommending that Ameren should consider prioritizing low-income populations when implementing voltage optimization projects.
Sierra Club retained Synapse Energy Economics to analyze and comment on Arizona Public Service Company's (APS) 2018 Load Forecast Report. Synapse's analysis concluded that APS's latest report continued to fail to provide adequate justification for its projection of rapid and steady load growth in the face of a decade of flat load.
Synapse’s Rachel Wilson provided analysis and testimony on an Avista Corporation rate case before the Washington Utilities & Transportation Commission. Ms. Wilson evaluated Avista’s production cost modeling, which used the AuroraXMP model, to determine if its requested increase in power costs was reasonable. She found that Avista’s modeling methodology led to a sustained overestimate of annual power supply costs, as evidenced by the compounding of credit deferral balances in its Energy Recovery Mechanism. Ms. Wilson recommended that Avista recalibrate its modeling to allow the Energy Recovery Mechanism to function as intended—to capture the variability between modeled and actual power supply costs. She further recommended that Avista more fully explore the possibility of joining the Western Energy Imbalance Market, which is a real-time wholesale energy market in which participants can buy and sell energy when needed.
Massachusetts GWSA Appendices
The Southwest Energy Efficiency Project (SWEEP) conducted a study on benefits of residential heat pumps for space heating and water heating in five major cities in the Southwest. Kenji Takahashi of Synapse Energy Economics played a key advisory role assisting SWEEP with conducting the first major analysis of heat pumps against natural gas heating in the region. More specifically, he reviewed, advised, and offered recommendations on key assumptions and methodologies for evaluating energy, economic, and emissions impacts of heat pumps.
You can read the report on SWEEP's website.
Electric vehicles (EVs) have the potential to provide substantial benefits to society by reducing emissions while lowering both transportation fuel costs and electricity rates. Effective EV rate design is critical for ensuring that these benefits are realized. Through rate design, electric utilities are in a unique position to ensure that EVs charge in a manner that minimizes costs to the grid, while providing customers with fuel savings relative to gasoline, which helps to drive EV adoption.
On behalf of the Natural Resources Defense Council, Synapse evaluated EV rate design at both the state and national levels. In June 2018, Synapse released Driving Transportation Electrification Forward in New York, a report examining New York utilities’ electric vehicle rate design proposals. NRDC filed this report along with comments in Docket 18-E-0206. The Synapse team then released a similar report for Pennsylvania. A national report currently in the works will provide utilities, regulators, and other stakeholders with an overview of key issues and best practices from a national perspective.
Driving Transportation Electrification Forward in Pennsylvania
In order to fulfill its ambitious greenhouse gas emission goals, California will need to decarbonize its buildings, which are responsible for 25 percent of the state's climate emissions. California's legislature recently passed a law requiring that the state have 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2045.In October, Synapse released a report (prepared on behalf of NRDC) examining the technology available for clean and efficient electric heating, the customer benefits of decarbonizing buildings, the electric grid impacts of doing so, and policy recommendations for getting there. The report particularly illuminates the importance of electric rate design to the customer economics and grid impacts of building decarbonization. California has been leading on developing electric vehicle rate designs and now has the opportunity to develop rates that work for low-emission buildings as well.
On Thursday, November 15, 2018, Synapse hosted a Third Thursday webinar discussion of these issues with Asa S. Hopkins, PhD, lead author of Decarbonization of Heating Energy Use in California Buildings, and Synapse Principal Associate Melissa Whited.
California often leads the nation in its efforts to reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by decreasing the use of fossil fuels. Also important—but often overlooked—is California’s role as an oil producer. While this role has declined, the state still produces about 5 percent of U.S. crude oil, or 0.5 percent of world production.
Supported by the 11th Hour Project, Synapse Energy Economics analyzed the GHG and economic impacts of reducing oil output in California. Compared with a business-as-usual (BAU) scenario, the study considers a policy scenario that would end all new oil drilling in the state and ban oil production within 2500 feet of homes, schools, and hospitals to mitigate the slew of local environmental and human health impacts associated with oil extraction. Under this policy scenario, the oil cutbacks (assuming they were all gasoline) are replaced by enough new solar power to fuel an equivalent number of vehicle miles travelled using electric vehicles.
The Synapse analysis finds that the state as a whole gains about 5,000 full-time equivalent (FTE) jobs per year under the policy scenario. Cutbacks in oil jobs are almost exactly replaced by new solar energy jobs. In addition, because electric vehicles are much cheaper to operate per mile, consumer respending of fuel savings generates about 5,000 new jobs. The policy scenario also avoids 48.4 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually by 2030, worth $2.8 billion per year using the Obama administration’s estimates of the social cost of carbon.
The Los Angeles City Council has mandated that the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP), the largest municipally-run utility in the United States, analyze powering 100 percent of demand with renewable energy. To date, LADWP's efforts have been insufficient, as the utility has only published an analysis of a slight increase over current renewable energy targets and is not planning to finalize their 100 percent renewable study until 2020 at the earliest.
Food & Water Watch engaged Synapse to analyze a potential pathway to 100 percent clean energy in Los Angeles by 2030. In our study, we found that it is possible for LADWP to exclusively use renewable resources to power its system in every hour of the year. What's more, we found that under one of the clean energy pathways analyzed, the transition to 100 percent renewable energy in every hour of the year can occur at no net cost to the system. The resulting report, Clean Energy for Los Angeles, provides a roadmap for how to achieve 100 percent renewables by integrating and harnessing renewable energy more efficiently and investing in additional efficiency, storage, and demand response.
Although the report only focuses on a single city, the results are important and applicable to many other parts of the country. Los Angeles's 4 million residents make the city larger than 22 entire states, while the annual energy served by LADWP is greater than sales in 13 individual states, indicating that if this transition is possible in Los Angeles, it is feasible in other parts of the country as well.
Synapse analyzed the macroeconomic impacts of federal fuel economy standards and state zero-emission vehicle standards on the U.S. economy. Our team compared the impacts of vehicle standards set for 2017-2025 to the impacts of keeping standards at 2016 levels. Our analysis indicated that federal and state vehicle standards will result in positive employment impacts and GDP growth in both the short term and long term. Synapse released Cleaner Cars and Job Creation, a report prepared for Union of Concerned Scientists, Natural Resources Defense Council, and American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, in March 2018.
In a follow-up report entitled Giving Back Half the Gains, we extended our Cleaner Cars Analysis to explore the macroeconomic impacts of the proposed rollback of the standards (henceforth called the flat-lined standards), relative to the same 2016-technology baseline. We then compared the employment and GDP impacts of the proposed flat-lined standards with the employment and GDP impacts of the existing clean vehicle standards. We found that the proposed flat-lined standards will generate 60,000 fewer job-years in 2025 and over 120,000 fewer job-years in 2035 than the existing clean vehicle standards. Furthermore, the proposed flat-lined standards will reduce GDP by $8 billion in both 2025 and 2035 when compared to the existing clean vehicle standards. We concluded that the proposed flat-lined standards are expected to reduce the positive impacts on the U.S. economy that would be generated under the existing clean vehicle standards compared to the 2016-technology baseline.
Giving Back Half the Gains
In 2018, the South Africa Department of Energy published a draft Integrated Resource Plan (IRP). On behalf of the Centre for Environmental Rights, Synapse evaluated the extent to which the draft complies with IRP best practices. Synapse identified a number of key flaws in the IRP, including (1) an unreasonably high load forecast, (2) unreasonably high cost projections for renewable and battery storage resources, (3) inadequate evaluation of the economic value provided by existing generating units and planned unit additions, (4) poorly supported fuel price assumptions, and (5) a disconnect between the IRP modeling findings and the selected resource plan. Synapse submitted a report identifying these deficiencies and recommending that the Department promptly correct them.
In 2018, Synapse surveyed 20 states on energy efficiency cost-effectiveness practices and created a public database to summarize and compare state results. The purpose of the DSESP is to provide information regarding state cost-effectiveness screening practices for ratepayer funded electric efficiency programs. States can use the DSESP to learn from other state’s practices and to readily access and better understand policies, processes, and studies that support assumptions used by states in benefit-cost analyses. This is an on-going effort. The DSESP will eventually include all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
Synapse launched a report in the fall of 2018 examining the technology options and impacts for building decarbonization in California, with a primary focus on air source heat pumps for space and water heating. The report examines electric grid impacts as well as the impact on customer economics. This included a detailed comparison of customer economics under different existing and near future rate structures. The report concludes with a set of recommended actions, including policy changes, to accelerate market transformation in the building sector.
Michigan Environment Council and Sierra Club hired Synapse to review and provide expert testimony regarding DTE Electric's application for authority to implement a Power Supply Cost Recovery Plan for 2018. Synapse expert Avi Allison filed testimony evaluating the economic status of DTE's coal fleet.
In August of 2018, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) released a proposed rule to replace existing vehicle fuel standards. Entitled, Safer Affordable Fuel-Efficient (SAFE) Vehicles Rule for Model Years 2021–2026 Passenger Cars and Light Trucks, or the SAFE Vehicles Rule, the proposed rule would roll back requirements for fuel efficiency mandated in the Corporate Average Fuel Economy (CAFE) Standards.
Synapse examined NHTSA’s and EPA’s vehicle sales and safety analysis, which is presented as a primary motivation for the selection of the standards in the draft rule. NHTSA and EPA estimate that lighter vehicles lead to more vehicle crash fatalities and automakers will be less inclined to reduce the mass of their vehicles if fuel economy standards are less stringent. Further, the agencies indicate that newer vehicles are safer, and more people will buy new vehicles under the draft rule instead of holding onto older vehicles because the cost to buy a new vehicle will be lower.
Our team conducted a literature review and reviewed NHTSA’s and EPA’s vehicle sales and safety modeling. Our analysis found serious flaws in the arguments and underlying analysis and assumptions used by NHTSA and EPA. After correcting these flaws, our analysis showed that increasing fuel economy and GHG standards maintains or even improves vehicle safety, consistent with peer-reviewed literature on this topic and past agency findings. Synapse released Effect of the Draft CAFE Standard Rule on Vehicle Safety, a report prepared for Consumers Union, in October 2018.
On behalf of Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships (NEEP), and funded through the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Synapse conducted an assessment across New York and New England of the region’s resources and needs as states seek to meet policy goals through strategic electrification. Specifically, Synapse surveyed stakeholders in the Northeast region--including state energy offices, local governments, utilities, and energy efficiency program administrators--to identify useful tools, resources, and databases that (a) are currently used to promote or assess impacts of strategic electrification or (b) the stakeholders would like to have to further their current work concerning electrification. The objective of this survey was to allow interested states to accelerate strategic electrification through fostering effective resource sharing, finding resource gaps, and identifying new research needs and areas. NEEP and Synapse presented a webinar on this survey to the public on September 20, 2018. Watch the webinar.
Synapse has a new EV tool! Our new EV-REDI (Electric Vehicle Regional Emissions and Demand Impacts) tool models multiple impacts of transportation electrification for specific states. With electric vehicles on the rise, there will be enormous opportunities for making transportation more sustainable and modernizing the electric grid. But to realize this potential, it will be necessary to plan ahead. More and more, states, cities, utilities, and regional authorities are seriously considering the impacts of futures in which electric vehicles play an increasingly important role in the transportation sector. EV-REDI can help meet the need to quantify the impacts of increased EV penetration on electricity sales, greenhouse gas emissions, and avoided gasoline consumption. Join us on October 18th to learn more about EV-REDI!
Webinar recorded on October 18, 2018. Watch it here!
Presenter: Pat Knight | Moderator: Bruce Biewald
Massachusetts’ Green Communities program helps the state’s 351 cities and towns find and successfully implement clean energy solutions. To receive Green Community designation, communities must develop and implement a plan to reduce energy use by 20 percent within five years and meet additional criteria including allowing for permitting and siting of renewable energy, purchasing fuel-efficient and alternative fuel vehicles, and adopting more stringent building codes. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources engaged Synapse to review Green Community Annual Reports, verify whether municipalities have reached their 20 percent energy reduction goal, and develop a Progress Report for the program highlighting achievements to date. Synapse will also identify strategies that are effective across towns, provide support to towns to meet their energy reduction goal, and make recommendations to continue to advance and improve the program. Synapse developed the Green Communities Program 2016 Progress Report, available here, and is currently developing the 2017 report.
Synapse reviewed the analysis conducted by Idaho Power Company (IPC) in support of its 2017 Integrated Resource Plan. In comments submitted on behalf of Sierra Club, Synapse identified concerns including a lack of rigorous modeling, the selection of an illegal resource plan, under-statement of future coal unit costs, and the lack of rigorous evaluation of the economic status of existing IPC coal units. Synapse recommended that IPC conduct optimization modeling in future IRPs, and fully assess the status of its Jim Bridger coal plant with respect to reasonable alternatives.
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