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Commitment vs. Discretion in Climate and Energy Policy

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  • Florian Habermacher
  • Paul Lehmann

Abstract

To decarbonize the power sector policy-makers need to commit to long-term credible rules for climate and energy policy. Otherwise, time-inconsistent policy-making will impair investments into low-carbon technologies. However, the future benefits and costs of decarbonization are subject to substantial uncertainties. Thus, there may also be societal gains from allowing policy-makers the discretion to adjust the policies as new information becomes available. We examine how this trade-off between policy commitment and discretion affects the optimal intertemporal design of policies to support the deployment of renewable energy sources. Using a dynamic partial equilibrium model of the power sector, we show that commitment to state-contingent renewable subsidies outperforms both unconditional commitment and discretion. The choice between the practically more feasible approaches of unconditional commitment and discretion is analytically ambiguous. A numerical illustration with naïve assumptions suggests that policy discretion may outperform unconditional commitment in terms of welfare. However, extensions to more realistic cases where only a limited fraction of climate uncertainty resolves, where future policy-makers have own agendas, or with risk-averse investors show commitment as favorable.

Suggested Citation

  • Florian Habermacher & Paul Lehmann, 2017. "Commitment vs. Discretion in Climate and Energy Policy," CESifo Working Paper Series 6355, CESifo Group Munich.
  • Handle: RePEc:ces:ceswps:_6355
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    File URL: http://www.cesifo-group.de/DocDL/cesifo1_wp6355.pdf
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    More about this item

    Keywords

    climate change; public policy; subsidies; renewable energy; time inconsistency; uncertainty; commitment; hold-up;

    JEL classification:

    • H23 - Public Economics - - Taxation, Subsidies, and Revenue - - - Externalities; Redistributive Effects; Environmental Taxes and Subsidies
    • Q42 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Alternative Energy Sources
    • Q48 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Energy - - - Government Policy
    • Q54 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Climate; Natural Disasters and their Management; Global Warming
    • Q58 - Agricultural and Natural Resource Economics; Environmental and Ecological Economics - - Environmental Economics - - - Environmental Economics: Government Policy

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