Catalyst in the Wild

Some examples of the projects Catalyst has done or enabled with our open source Public Utility Data Liberation (PUDL) platform.

Targeting Coal Plants for Early Retirement

From October 2016 through mid 2018 Catalyst worked in partnership with the Climate Policy Initiative (CPI) and energy transition advocates to systematically identify uneconomic coal plants nationwide and target them for early retirement. Our data integration supported the development of efficient financial mechanisms that not only enable early plant retirement but also support community transition assistance.

FERC Form 1 Fossil MCOE, 2004-2016
Distribution of fossil fuel based marginal cost of electricity, 2004-2016. CC-BY Catalyst Cooperative.

As part of this partnership, Catalyst began development of the open-source Public Utility Data Liberation (PUDL) platform, which brings together plant and generator level cost and operations data from EIA Forms 860 and 923, and FERC Form 1. Using these data, Catalyst has compiled estimates of the marginal cost of electricity (MCOE) for generation units across the country, and worked with CPI to enhance the usability of this data. In its 2018 report Utility Financial Transition Impacts: From Fossil to Clean, America’s Power Plan cited Catalyst’s role in providing public access to the data underpinning MCOE estimates which showed that most of Public Service Company of Colorado‚Äôs coal fleet was more expensive to own and run than purchasing new wind power.

Cumulative net generation in MWh for coal vs. natural gas fired generators, from 2009-2016.

This work involved data quality control, postgres database design, and the development of separate integration pipelines for data sourced from a variety of legacy formats. In addition to extracting existing data, we have also created connections between previously unlinked FERC and EIA datasets, and within the EIA datasets, enabling analyses that cannot be performed with one dataset alone. We are currently performing regression analyses to better identify and separate the fixed and variable operating costs for generation assets of a similar vintage and technology.

Identifying Renewable Energy Development Opportunities

Catalyst is working with renewable energy developers to identify investment opportunities, based on the economic viability of existing utility assets and the broader landscape of electricity generation in which they operate. Using the PUDL platform, Catalyst has compiled operational data on plants in jurisdictions of interest to our clients, targeting economically inefficient and underutilized units for further in-depth regulatory analysis.

Capacity Factor, Heat Rate, and Operating Expenses for Ameren's Meremec Power Plant
Capacity Factor, Heat Rate, and Operating Expenses for Unit 1 of Ameren’s Meremec Power Plant. Monthly per-unit data based on EIA 860 & 923. Annual plant-wide data based on FERC Form 1.

Reviewing Zero Net Carbon Policy Proposals

Catalyst has also worked with grassroots advocates in Colorado to perform qualitative policy analysis. In December, 2017 the Platte River Power Authority (PRPA) released a Zero Net Carbon Portfolio Analysis in response to requests from PRPA members. PRPA contracted Pace Global to conduct the analysis, and the Fort Collins Sustainability Group engaged Catalyst to rapidly review and offer PRPA feedback on the report, examining the economic and policy assumptions underpinning the results. These included resource price projections, capacity factor projections, technological assumptions, and overall projections about the future state of the electricity grid.

See our full report: Observations from the PRPA Zero Net Carbon Portfolio Analysis.