European CO2 prices and carbon capture investments
We assess the option to install a carbon capture and storage (CCS) unit in a coal-fired power plant operating in a carbon-constrained environment. We consider two sources of risk, namely the price of emission allowance and the price of the electricity output. First we analyse the performance of the EU market for CO2 emission allowances. Specifically, we focus on the contracts maturing in the Kyoto Protocol's first commitment period (2008 to 2012) and calibrate the underlying parameters of the allowance price process. Then we refer to the Spanish wholesale electricity market and calibrate the parameters of the electricity price process. We use a two-dimensional binomial lattice to derive the optimal investment rule. In particular, we obtain the trigger allowance prices above which it is optimal to install the capture unit immediately. We further analyse the effect of changes in several variables on these critical prices, among them allowance price volatility and a hypothetical government subsidy. We conclude that, at current permit prices, immediate installation does not seem justified from a financial point of view. This need not be the case, though, if carbon market parameters change dramatically, carbon capture technology undergoes significant improvements, and/or a specific governmental policy to promote these units is adopted.
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