New Research

California’s Greenhouse Gas (GHG) cap-and-trade program is a key element of the suite of policies the State has adopted to achieve its climate policy goals. The passage of AB 398 (California Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006: market-based compliance mechanisms) extended the use of the cap-and-trade program for the 2021-2030 period, while also specifying modifications of the program’s “cost containment” structure and directing CARB to “[e]valuate and address concerns related to overallocation in [ARB’s] determination of the allowances available for years 2021 to 2030.” The changes being considered by CARB will not only affect the program’s stringency, but also its performance by affecting the ability of the “cost containment” structure to mitigate allowance price volatility and the risk of suddenly escalating allowance prices. We address key design issues that were identified by the legislature in AB 398 and have been identified by CARB in its “Preliminary Concepts” white paper, including: (1) Price levels for the Price Ceiling and Price Containment Points; (2) Allocation of allowances between the auction budgets, Price Containment Points, and Price Ceiling; (3) “Overallocation” of GHG allowances; and (4) the program’s administrative and operational rules, such as procedures for distributing allowances to the market from the Price Ceiling or Price Containment Points, procedures for using allowances once distributed, and banking rules.
Meckling, Jonas, Thomas Sterner, and Gernot Wagner. 2017. “Policy sequencing toward decarbonization.” Nature Energy 2. Abstract
Many economists have long held that carbon pricing—either through a carbon tax or cap-and-trade—is the most cost-effective way to decarbonize energy systems, along with subsidies for basic research and development. Meanwhile, green innovation and industrial policies aimed at fostering low-carbon energy technologies have proliferated widely. Most of these predate direct carbon pricing. Low-carbon leaders such as California and the European Union (EU) have followed a distinct policy sequence that helps overcome some of the political challenges facing low-carbon policy by building economic interest groups in support of decarbonization and reducing the cost of technologies required for emissions reductions. However, while politically effective, this policy pathway faces significant challenges to environmental and cost effectiveness, including excess rent capture and lock-in. Here we discuss options for addressing these challenges under political constraints. As countries move toward deeper emissions cuts, combining and sequencing policies will prove critical to avoid environmental, economic, and political dead-ends in decarbonizing energy systems.
Mohlin, Kristina, Jonathan R. Camuzeaux, Adrian Muller, Marius Schneider, and Gernot Wagner. 2018. “Factoring in the forgotten role of renewables in CO2 emission trends using decomposition analysis.” Energy Policy 116: 290-296. Publisher's Version Abstract
This paper introduces an approach for separately quantifying the contributions from renewables in decomposition analysis. So far, decomposition analyses of the drivers of national CO2 emissions have typically considered the combined energy mix as an explanatory factor without an explicit consideration or separation of renewables. As the cost of renewables continues to decrease, it becomes increasingly relevant to track their role in CO2 emission trends. Index decomposition analysis, in particular, provides a simple approach for doing so using publicly available data. We look to the U.S. as a case study, highlighting differences with the more detailed but also more complex structural decomposition analysis. Between 2007 and 2013, U.S. CO2 emissions decreased by around 10%—a decline not seen since the oil crisis of 1979. Prior analyses have identified the shale gas boom and the economic recession as the main explanatory factors. However, by decomposing the fuel mix effect, we conclude that renewables played an equally important role as natural gas in reducing CO2 emissions between 2007 and 2013: renewables decreased total emissions by 2.3–3.3%, roughly matching the 2.5–3.6% contribution from the shift to natural gas, compared with 0.6–1.5% for nuclear energy.
On December 19, 2017, the government of China announced that it is commencing development of a nationwide CO2 trading system, that when launched will become the world’s largest carbon trading system, annually covering about 3.5 billion tons of CO2 emissions in China’s electric power sector. That approaches twice the size of what is currently the … Continue reading "What Should We Make of China’s Announcement of a National CO2 Trading System?"
Narayanamurti, Venkatsh, and Jeffrey Y. Tsao. 2018. “Nurturing Transformative U.S. Energy Research: Two Guiding Principles.” MRS Energy & Sustainability 5 (10): 1-8. Abstract
Energy research is critical to continuing advances in human productivity and welfare. In this Commentary, we raise for debate and discussion what in our view is a growing mis-control and mis-protection of U.S. energy research. This flawed approach originates in natural human tendencies exacerbated by an historical misunderstanding of research and development, science and technology, and the relationships between them. We outline the origin of the mis-control and mis-protection, and propose two guiding principles to mitigate them and instead nurture research: (i) focus on people, not projects; and (ii) culturally insulate research from development, but not science from technology. Our hope is to introduce these principles into the discourse now, so they can help guide policy changes in U.S. energy research and development that are currently being driven by powerful geopolitical winds.
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