Mixing it Up: Power Sector Energy and Regional and Regulatory Climate Policies in the Presence of a Carbon Tax 2014/10/31
Dallas Burtraw and Karen Palmer
A carbon tax will interact with other policies that are intended to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and encourage clean sources of energy and energy efficiency. This paper examines these policy interactions. A well-designed carbon tax can be an efficient instrument for reducing emissions, yet whether it will be implemented in an efficient manner is uncertain. A legislatively determined tax may not fully reflect up-to-date scientific and economic information. Behavioral and institutional factors suggest that a tax may not have its fully intended effect. These considerations suggest that climate policy should and will continue to be a complex mix of regulaions at various levels of government, even with a carbon price. Nonetheless, the possibility of unintended interactions among policies remains. The role for policies to encourage renewables and energy efficiency depends on the stringency of the carbon tax and presence of externalities related to technological learning and the energy efficiency gap.
A balance of 'bottom-up' and 'top-down' in linking climate policies 2014/10/31
Green, J., T Sterner and G Wagner
Top-down climate negotiations embodied by the Kyoto Protocol have all but stalled, chiefly because of disagreements over targets and objections to financial transfers. To avoid those problems, many have shifted their focus to linkage of bottom-up climate policies such as regional carbon markets. This approach is appealing, but we identify four obstacles to successful linkage: different levels of ambition; competing domestic policy objectives; objections to financial transfers; and the difficulty of close regulatory coordination. Even with a more decentralized approach, overcoming the 'global warming gridlock' of the intergovernmental negotiations will require close international coordination. We demonstrate how a balance of bottom-up and top-down elements can create a path toward an effective global climate architecture
Discussion Paper: The Initial Incidence of a Carbon Tax across US States 2014/10/23
Roberton C. Williams III, Hal Gordon, Dallas Burtraw, Jared C. Carbone& Richard D. Morgenstern
Carbon taxes introduce potentially uneven cost burdens across the population. The distribution of these costs is especially important in affecting political outcomes. This paper links dynamic overlapping-generations and microsimulation models of the United States to estimate the initial incidence of a carbon tax across states. Geographic differences in incidence are driven primarily by differences in sources of income. Differing patterns of energy use also matter but are relatively less important. The use of the carbon tax revenue plays an important role, particularly in determining how different income sources are affected, as: (1) using carbon tax revenue to cut capital taxes disproportionately benefits states with large shares of capital income; (2) returning the revenue via lump-sum transfers favors relatively low-income states; and (3) returning the revenue via cuts in labor taxes provides a relatively even distribution of cost across states. In general, geographic differences in incidence are substantially smaller than the differences across income groups.
Discussion Paper: The Initial Incidence of a Carbon Tax across Income Groups 2014/10/23
Roberton C. Williams III, Hal Gordon, Dallas Burtraw, Jared C. Carbone & Richard D. Morgenstern
Carbon taxes efficiently reduce greenhouse gas emissions but are criticized as regressive. This paper links dynamic overlapping-generation and microsimulation models of the United States to estimate the initial incidence. We find that while carbon taxes are regressive, the incidence depends much more on how carbon tax revenue is used. Recycling revenues to cut capital taxes is efficient but exacerbates regressivity. Lump-sum rebates are less efficient but much more progressive, benefiting the three lower income quintiles even when ignoring environmental benefits. A labor tax swap represents an intermediate option, more progressive than a capital tax swap and more efficient than a rebate.
Benchmarking in the European Union Emissions Trading System: Abatement incentives 2014/10/23
This paper investigates abatement incentives for allowance allocation based on output and sector specific benchmarks, here called output based allocation or benchmarking. Special attention is given to updated allocation and we assume that allowances can be traded with other sectors (open cap). We confirm earlier studies that output based allocation based on ex-ante data provide the same abatement incentives as auction or grandfathering and also confirm that output based allocation with updated output and ex-ante benchmarks provides as high abatement incentives as auction, but constitutes a production subsidy. However, we also find that benchmarking with updated output and updated benchmarks reduces abatement incentives somewhat, but less so than updated grandfathering. An allocation rule where the sector cap is prescribed ex-ante, for instance based on historic emissions, and distributed to installations in proportion to their updated production preserves full abatement incentives and avoids some of the costs associated with the determination of benchmarks. However, this rule also constitutes a production subsidy, which decreases with industry concentration. If a sector is split into smaller groups each with one benchmark per sub-sector, benchmarking evolves toward grandfathering. Since benchmarking is conditioned on production, this allocation method protects production from leakage, i.e. migrating to areas where firms face no emissions cost. This may actually be the most compelling reason for choosing benchmarking.
Discussion Paper: The Costs and Consequences of Clean Air Act Regulation of CO2 from Power Plants 2014/10/23
Dallas Burtraw, Joshua Linn, Karen Palmer & Anthony Paul
US climate policy is unfolding under the Clean Air Act. Mobile source and construction permitting regulations are in place. Most important, the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the states will determine the form and stringency of the regulations for existing power plants. It is widely believed that flexible approaches could be suggested in EPA guidelines or proposed by states. Various approaches would create an implicit price on emitting greenhouse gases and create valuable assets that would be distributed differently among electricity producers, consumers, and the government. We compare a tradable performance standard with three variations on cap-and-trade policies that would distribute the asset value in different ways. Keeping the value within the electricity sector by distributing it to fossil-fueled producers or consumers or spending on energy efficiency has smaller effects on average electricity prices than a revenue-raising policy. These approaches impose greater social cost, but comparable net benefits in the sector.
Discussion Paper: Economic Ideas for a Complex Climate Policy Regime 2014/10/23
Dallas Burtraw and Matt Woerman
The parsimony of economic theory provides general insights into an otherwise complex world. However, the most straightforward organizing principles from theory have not often taken hold in environmental policy or in the decentralized climate policy regime that is unfolding. One reason is inadequate recognition of a variety of institutions. This paper addresses three ways the standard model may inadequately anticipate the role of institutions in the actual implementation of climate policy, with a US focus: multilayered authority across jurisdictions, the impressionistic rather than deterministic influence of prices through subsidiary jurisdictions, and the complementary role of prices and regulation in this context. The economic approach is built on the premise that incentives affect behavior. We suggest an important pathway of influence for economic theory is to infuse incentive-based thinking into the conventional regulatory framework. In a complex policy regime, incentives can be shaped by shadow prices as well as market prices.
Why the EU ETS needs reforming: an empirical analysis of the impact on company investments 2014/10/23
Åsa Löfgrena, Markus Wråke, Tomas Hagberg & Susanna Roth
The European Union's Emissions Trading Scheme (EU ETS) is so far the largest emissions trading system in the world. A rigorous ex post empirical analysis of the scheme is presented. The effect of the scheme on firms' investment decisions in carbon-reducing technologies is analysed by using detailed firm-level data from Swedish industry. Based on difference-in-difference estimation as well as a before–after difference estimation, the results reveal that the EU ETS has not had a significant effect on firms’ decisions to invest in carbon-mitigating technologies. However, although the EU ETS appears to have no direct effect on investments, it is too early to dismiss the system. Consideration is given to how the EU ETS can realize its potential to become an effective tool in the EU climate and energy policy portfolio. Policy relevanceA thorough analysis and discussion considers the ability of the EU ETS to create strong incentives for investment in carbon-reducing measures. The empirical results (using detailed firm-level data from Swedish industry) add to earlier findings in the literature showing the limitations of the EU ETS to influence investments and innovation. This is a critical and pressing issue for policy makers. With even modest reforms such as the back-loading of allowances meeting strong resistance from some Member States, the future of the EU ETS is rightly put in question. A key question is whether the EU ETS can and should be reformed in a way so that it can have a real impact on investments, or whether other policy instruments should take an increasing role for long-term transformation of the energy system.
Working Paper: Environmental and Technology Policy Options in the Electricity Sector 2014/10/23
Carolyn Fischer, Richard G. Newell & Louis Preonas
Myriad policy measures aim to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from the electricity sector, promote generation from renewable sources, and encourage energy conservation. To what extent do innovation and energy efficiency (EE) market failures justify additional interventions when a carbon price is in place? We extend the model of Fischer and Newell (2008) with advanced and conventional renewable energy technologies and short and long-run EE investments. We incorporate both knowledge spillovers and imperfections in the demand for energy efficiency. We conclude that some technology policies, particularly correcting R&D market failures, can be useful complements to emissions pricing, but ambitious renewable targets or subsidies seem unlikely to enhance welfare when placed alongside sufficient emissions pricing. The desirability of stringent EE policies is highly sensitive to the degree of undervaluation of EE by consumers, which also has implications for policies that tend to lower electricity prices Even with multiple market failures, emissions pricing remains the single most cost-effective option for reducing emissions.
Discussion Paper: Technology Flexibility and Stringency for Greenhouse Gas Regulations 2014/10/23
Dallas Burtraw and Matt Woerman
The Clean Air Act provides the primary regulatory framework for climate policy in the United States. Tradable performance standards (averaging) emerge as the likely tool to achieve flexibility in the regulation of existing stationary sources. This paper examines the relationship between flexibility and stringency. The metric to compare the stringency of policies is ambiguous. The relevant section of the act is traditionally technology based, suggesting an emissions rate focus. However, a specific emissions rate improvement averaged over a larger set of generators reduces the actual emissions change. A marginal abatement cost criterion to compare policy designs suggests cost-effectiveness across sources. This criterion can quadruple the emissions reductions that are achieved, with net social benefits exceeding $25 billion in 2020, with a 1.3 percent electricity price increase. Under the act, multiple stringency criteria are relevant. EPA should evaluate state implementation plans according to a portfolio of attributes, including effectiveness and cost.
Discussion Paper: State and Fuel-Specific Benchmarks for Greenhouse Gas Performance Standards 2014/10/23
Dallas Burtraw and Matt Woerman
The next major aspect of US climate policy will likely be the regulation of existing power plants, and tradable performance standards could form the basis of this framework. Under this framework, emitting sources have a compliance obligation, identified as a benchmark emissions rate, and there is a market where sources can trade emissions based on an emissions rate under/over their benchmark. We examine different approaches to setting benchmark rates across geography and fuel type in a program that enables national trading. We show that, for a given national emissions target, differentiating benchmark rates affects the program’s cost-effectiveness. However, these differences also affect the regional distribution of the program’s electricity price effects and may reduce the variation in these effects. We observe a "knee in the curve," where modest differentiation in benchmark rates could address some distributional concerns at low cost, but substantial differentiation raises the program’s cost precipitously.
Report: Utvecklingen av EU:s system för handel med utsläppsrätter och den framtida internationella utsläppsmarknaden 2014/10/23
Lars Zetterberg, Svante Mandell, Susanna Roth, Andrei Marcu, Clayton Munnings
EU:s klimat och energipaket innebär att utsläppen av växthusgaser inom EU ska minska med 20 % från år 1990 till år 2020. Vidare ska, inom EU:s system för handel med utsläppsrätter (EU ETS), utsläppen minska med 21 % mellan år 2005 och 2020, medan utsläppen i den icke handlande sektorn (IHS) ska minska med 10 % under samma period (EU-kommissionen, 2013). Den större bördan i EU ETS motiveras av att åtgärdskostnaderna är lägre där och att det därför är mer kostnadseffektivt att minska utsläppen mer i EU ETS. I EU:s färdplan till 2050 anges en intention att minska utsläppen med 80 % - 95 % till 2050 (EU-kommissionen, 2011b). Utsläppsmålet för EU ETS till år 2020 säkerställs genom att utsläppstaket minskar med 1,74 % per år. Den reduktionsfaktorn gäller även bortom 2020 och kommer att leda till en total minskning med ca 70 % till år 2050. Men eftersom det inte räcker för att uppfylla ambitionen till 2050 behöver ambitionsnivån höjas i EU ETS. Det finns i och för sig en flexibilitet i hur framtida reduktionsmål fördelas mellan ETS och IHS. Men eftersom åtgärdskostnaderna tycks vara billigare i ETS än i IHS är det sannolikt att man, på samma sätt som idag ökar bördan relativt sett mer i ETS än i IHS. EU-kommissionen presenterade 2012 en rapport, The State of the European Carbon Market in 2012, om hur EU:s handelssystem för utsläppsrätter fungerar och kan utvecklas på längre sikt (EU-kommissionen, 2012a). I rapporten konstateras att det finns ett stort överskott av utsläppsrätter vilket riskerar att allvarligt underminera handelssystemets funktion. Rapporten beskriver vidare sex strukturella åtgärder som kommissionen anser kan förbättra den nuvarande situationen inom EU ETS och det nu rådande och växande utbudsöverskottet. Med utgångspunkt i kommissionens rapport har vi analyserat förslagen utifrån ett nationalekonomiskt perspektiv. Vårt fokus har varit på EU ETS och hur dess funktion och effektivitet påverkas av förslagen. Vidare har vi försökt att måla upp ett antal scenarier för hur den internationella utsläppsmarknaden utvecklas i framtiden med utblick mot 2050, och vad det innebär för Sveriges förutsättningar att köpa utsläppsrätter på den internationella marknaden.
Working Paper: The Effect of EU-ETS on Swedish Industry’s Investment in Carbon Mitigating Technologies 2014/10/23
Åsa Löfgren, Markus Wråke, Tomas Hagberg, Susanna Roth
The European Union’s Emissions Trading Scheme (EU-ETS) is so far the largest emissions trading system in the world. It covers about 12000 installations, representing approximately 45% of EU emissions of CO2, with the objective to establish a carbon price creating incentives for cost efficient reductions of emitted green house gases. In this article we perform an expost analysis where we use detailed firm level data to analyse the effect of the EU ETS on firms’ investment decisions in carbon reducing technologies. In addition we draw on the existing literature and control for firm specific characteristics that has previously been shown to be determinants of firms’ investment in clean technology.