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CO 2 cost pass-through and windfall profits in the power sector


  • Jos Sijm
  • Karsten Neuhoff
  • Yihsu Chen


In order to cover their CO 2 emissions, power companies receive most of the required EU ETS allowances for free. In line with economic theory, these companies pass on the costs of these allowances in the price of electricity. This article analyses the implications of the EU ETS for the power sector, notably the impact of free allocation of CO 2 emission allowances on the price of electricity and the profitability of power generation. As well as some theoretical reflections, the article presents empirical and model estimates of CO 2 cost pass-through for Germany and The Netherlands, indicating that pass-through rates vary between 60 and 100% of CO 2 costs, depending on the carbon intensity of the marginal production unit and various other market- or technology-specific factors. As a result, power companies realize substantial windfall profits, as indicated by the empirical and model estimates presented in the article.

Suggested Citation

  • Jos Sijm & Karsten Neuhoff & Yihsu Chen, 2006. "CO 2 cost pass-through and windfall profits in the power sector," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 49-72, January.
  • Handle: RePEc:taf:tcpoxx:v:6:y:2006:i:1:p:49-72 DOI: 10.1080/14693062.2006.9685588

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Karsten Neuhoff & Kim Keats Martinez & Misato Sato, 2006. "Allocation, incentives and distortions: the impact of EU ETS emissions allowance allocations to the electricity sector," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 6(1), pages 73-91, January.
    2. Burtraw, Dallas & Palmer, Karen & Kahn, Daniel, 2005. "Allocation of CO2 Emissions Allowances in the Regional Greenhouse Gas Cap-and-Trade Program," Discussion Papers dp-05-25, Resources For the Future.
    3. Burtraw, Dallas & Palmer, Karen & Bharvirkar, Ranjit & Paul, Anthony, 2002. "The Effect on Asset Values of the Allocation of Carbon Dioxide Emission Allowances," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 15(5), pages 51-62, June.
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    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • C81 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Data Collection and Data Estimation Methodology; Computer Programs - - - Methodology for Collecting, Estimating, and Organizing Microeconomic Data; Data Access
    • L11 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Production, Pricing, and Market Structure; Size Distribution of Firms
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities


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