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Upstream vs. Downstream CO2 Trading: A Comparison for the Electricity Context

Listed author(s):
  • Hobbs, Benjamin
  • Bushnell, James
  • Wolak, Frank

In electricity, "downstream" CO2 regulation requires retail suppliers to buy energy from a mix of sources so that their weighted emissions satisfy a standard. It has been argued that such "load-based" regulation would solve emissions leakage, cost consumers less, and provide more incentive for energy efficiency than traditional source-based cap-and-trade programs. Because pure load-based trading complicates spot power markets, variants (GEAC and CO2RC) that separate emissions attributes from energy have been proposed. When all generators and consumers come under such a system, these load-based programs are equivalent to source-based trading in which emissions allowances are allocated by various rules, and have no necessary cost advantage. The GEAC and CO2RC systems are equivalent to giving allowances free to generators, and requiring consumers either to subsidize generation or buy back excess allowances, respectively. As avoided energy costs under source-based and pure load-based trading are equal, the latter provides no additional incentive for energy efficiency. The speculative benefits of load-based systems are unjustified in light of their additional administrative complexity and cost, the threat that they pose to the competitiveness and efficiency of electricity spot markets, and the complications that would arise when transition to a federal cap-and-trade system occurs.

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Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers Archive with number 31184.

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Date of creation: 22 Apr 2010
Publication status: Published in Energy Policy, July 2010, vol. 38 no. 7, pp. 3632-3643
Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:31184
Contact details of provider: Postal:
Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070

Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.edu
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  1. Yihsu Chen & Jos Sijm & Benjamin Hobbs & Wietze Lise, 2008. "Implications of CO 2 emissions trading for short-run electricity market outcomes in northwest Europe," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 34(3), pages 251-281, December.
  2. Bushnell, James & Chen, Yihsu, 2009. "Regulation, Allocation and Leakage in Cap-And-Trade Markets for CO2," Staff General Research Papers Archive 13131, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  3. Palmer, Karen & Burtraw, Dallas & Paul, Anthony, 2009. "Allowance Allocation in a CO2 Emissions Cap-and-Trade Program for the Electricity Sector in California," Discussion Papers dp-09-41, Resources For the Future.
  4. Carolyn Fischer, 2003. "Combining rate-based and cap-and-trade emissions policies," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 3(sup2), pages 89-103, December.
  5. Gillenwater, Michael & Breidenich, Clare, 2009. "Internalizing carbon costs in electricity markets: Using certificates in a load-based emissions trading scheme," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(1), pages 290-299, January.
  6. Dallas Burtraw, 2008. "Regulating CO 2 in electricity markets: sources or consumers?," Climate Policy, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 8(6), pages 588-606, November.
  7. Niemeier, D. & Gould, Gregory & Karner, Alex & Hixson, Mark & Bachmann, Brooke & Okma, Carrie & Lang, Ziv & Heres Del Valle, David, 2008. "Rethinking downstream regulation: California's opportunity to engage households in reducing greenhouse gases," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(9), pages 3436-3447, September.
  8. Van Horn, Andrew & Remedios, Edward, 2008. "A Comparison of Three Cap-and-Trade Market Designs and Incentives for New Technologies to Reduce Greenhouse Gases," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 21(2), pages 51-62, March.
  9. Michel, Steven & Nielsen, John, 2008. "Popping the CO2RC: An Alternative Load-Based CO2 Cap-and-Trade Instrument for the Electricity Sector," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 21(4), pages 31-42, May.
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