Projects & Case Studies

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CASE STUDY

Modeling California’s 50 Percent Renewables Portfolio Standard

Transmission planning support, strategy, and financial analysis | TransCanyon, 2014–present

Since 2014, E3 has supported TransCanyon, a joint venture between Berkshire Hathaway and Pinnacle West, in developing high-voltage transmission in the Western Interconnection. We provide strategic advice and analysis for investment opportunities, help curate and prioritize TransCanyon’s project portfolio, and articulate how electricity sector policies will impact its transmission development business throughout the western U.S. E3 draws on the knowledge base within all our practice areas and our most recent pricing forecasts to provide insights on TransCanyon’s investment outlook.

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Investigating a higher RPS for California | LADWP, PG&E, SMUD, SDG&E, and SCE, 2013–14

On behalf of California’s five largest electric utilities, E3 evaluated the challenges, costs, and potential solutions for achieving a 50 percent renewables portfolio standard (RPS) by 2030. Using our Renewable Energy Flexibility Model (REFLEX), we performed detailed operational studies of power system dispatch flexibility constraints under high levels of wind and solar generation. We found that achieving a 50 percent RPS is feasible and that California’s power system can remain reliable as long as renewable resources can be dispatched in response to grid needs. Our study recommended strategies for integrating higher levels of renewables, including greater regional coordination, renewables portfolio diversity, flexible generation capacity, flexible loads, and energy storage. We found that deploying these strategies would reduce the need to curtail renewables, lowering the cost of reaching 50 percent RPS.

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Evaluating benefits of regional market participation | Multiple utilities, 2014–present

E3 has completed studies for more than 10 utilities on the costs and benefits of participating in the western energy imbalance market (EIM), a regional 5-minute balancing market that became operational in 2014. The EIM aims to lower costs for consumers and assist states in meeting renewable energy goals through more-efficient dispatch, which reduces the need to carry costly reserves and curtail renewable generation. For each study, we ran a production simulation grounded in a detailed representation of the utility’s system. Our work has informed decisions by PacifiCorp, Arizona Public Service, NV Energy, and other utilities to join the EIM, as well as Chelan County Public Utility District’s decision not to participate. Consistent with E3 findings, the California ISO estimated that participants saved more than $85 million in the 20 months after the EIM became operational. Several more studies for utilities are under way.

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Modeling benefits of the Western EIM | WECC, 2011

The Western Electric Coordinating Council (WECC) engaged E3 to model the benefits of implementing an energy imbalance market (EIM) across the Western Interconnection. Working with WECC staff and many stakeholders, we modeled and compared simulated production costs for a scenario that maintained existing operational arrangements and a second scenario with a consolidated regional balancing market. The analysis found benefits from improved system dispatch, as well as from reductions in operating reserves needed to accommodate wind and solar variability. E3 devised an innovative technique to more accurately estimate the potential impact of the EIM, and pioneered applying “hurdle rates” to calibrate the GridView production simulation base case so that it more accurately reflected bidding and dispatch practices in the West. Since presenting our findings to WECC in 2011, we have developed similar EIM cost-benefit studies for 10 additional utilities.

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Valuation case for potential natural gas power plant acquisition | Large equity holder, 2013

E3 provided independent, comprehensive valuation and due diligence services to a client considering the acquisition of a natural gas power plant in the Pacific Northwest. We examined transmission options and associated costs, energy market revenue projections under various regulatory and environmental scenarios, capacity values, ancillary services revenues, and potential off-takers. Based on our low-valuation case, the buyer made the prudent decision not to acquire this plant.

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Market assessment for wind project acquisition | Large equity holder, 2015

E3 advised a large private equity firm on a potential acquisition of nearly 1 GW of wind generation assets. This project tapped our deep understanding of the western grid, markets, and public policy. We applied our suite of models to project price trajectories for future renewable power purchase agreements, to assess the impact of renewable curtailment on asset values, and to weigh supply and demand for renewable energy credits under potential future regulation. Our analysis helped the company stress-test its internal valuation results and ultimately supported a successful bidding strategy and acquisition.

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Market and financial analysis for $200 million storage investment | Macquarie Capital, 2016

Macquarie Capital turned to E3 for analysis and strategic advice on a potential investment in a 50 MW distributed storage project developed by Advanced Microgrid Solutions (AMS) in the Los Angeles Basin. We performed simulations to verify AMS’s internal modeling of the benefits, costs, and value proposition of behind-the-meter, customer-sited storage assets. To understand potential revenue streams over a 20-year period, E3 analyzed the storage project and the underlying business model, forecasting wholesale and retail electric markets. Our financial analysis for the investors and potential lenders was a key element of the due diligence leading to Macquarie’s $200 million financing arrangement with AMS to take ownership of the project.

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Litigation and regulatory support for large-scale solar thermal plant development | BrightSource Energy, 2010

The Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System (ISEGS) is the largest commercial solar thermal plant in the world. Built in California’s Mojave Desert by BrightSource Energy, the plant produces a maximum output of almost 400 MW and cost more than $2 billion. E3 supported its development with strategic and regulatory consulting, plant valuation, site and transmission valuation, and other services. BrightSource relied on E3’s reports and testimony to gain site permits and transmission interconnection; utilities relied on our work in signing power purchase agreements. E3 partner Arne Olson’s testimony was key to BrightSource’s successful application to the California Energy Commission (CEC) to construct the ISEGS, as opponents claimed that distributed solar photovoltaic projects would negate the need for it. Olson’s rebuttal reinforced the BrightSource proposal, and the CEC approved the site license in 2009. Construction began in 2010, and Ivanpah came online in February 2014.

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Litigation: managing electricity procurement risk | KCP&L Greater Missouri Operations Co., 2011–12

E3 supported KCP&L Greater Missouri Operations Company (GMO) in its successful opposition to a $14 million disallowance proposed by the regulatory staff of the Missouri Public Service Commission (MPSC). GMO had purchased NYMEX natural gas futures to hedge against possible wholesale electricity price increases, but the spot and futures prices for natural gas plummeted, resulting in a $14 million loss to GMO. The MPSC staff contended that GMO’s hedge amounted to placing a bet in the stock market and should be disallowed. E3 founding partner C. K. Woo provided direct and surrebuttal testimony to the MPSC, explaining the role of cross-hedging in managing electricity spot-price risk and countering claims that GMO had misused natural gas futures. The MPSC denied its regulatory staff’s imprudence allegation, allowing GMO to fully recover its costs.

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Renewable procurement strategy for corporate sustainability | Large data center, 2016

E3 advised a global data center operator on renewable energy procurement in the western U.S. to support achievement of its corporate sustainability goals. We advised the client about factors impacting the long-run cost of the renewable attribute for wind and solar procurement, which is critical to understanding the economics of long-term renewable power purchase agreements. Our 20-year hourly price projections under various market and regulatory scenarios factored in natural gas and carbon price levels, the mix and quantity of renewable technologies on the system, the penetration of rooftop solar PV, and the deployment of renewable integration technologies and strategies. These scenarios supported transaction due diligence and provided a boundary for the ranges of potential renewable energy credit costs.

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Energy procurement plan | University of California, 2012–present

The University of California Office of the President (UCOP) retained E3 to develop an energy procurement plan for the six UC campuses served by competitive energy suppliers with total annual usage of over 250 GWh. We developed a model to compare the economic and environmental attributes of proposed purchase contracts against the university’s existing portfolio of contracts and retail electric rates. E3 projected each campus’s loads, operation profiles, and costs for existing combined heat and power facilities, and calculated the cost of new supply portfolios that included on-site generation, off-campus renewable power purchase agreements, and market electricity purchases. Our analysis, which found significant potential to make progress on sustainability goals while managing procurement costs and risk, formed the basis for UCOP’s procurement strategy. E3 continues to advise UCOP and individual campuses on the economics of renewable energy projects and procurement strategies for achieving the UC Sustainability Directive of zero carbon emissions by 2025.

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