Carbon Auction Results Show Stability Amidst Eventful Time for Cap and Trade

KHK pictureIt’s early in 2014, but it’s already been a busy year for cap and trade in California.

On the upside, several major developments have set off a series of conversations around the state’s landmark program, including Governor Brown’s plans for how to invest cap-and-trade auction proceeds to reduce greenhouse gas pollution. Similarly, the California Air Resources Board just released an update to the state’s AB 32 Scoping Plan, laying out the continued need to cut pollution across the Golden State. And, just this past week, Senators Fran Pavley and Ricardo Lara proposed a bill requiring the Air Resources Board to provide recommendations on post-2020 climate pollution reduction targets including for short-lived pollutants. 

On the flip side, new legislation was also proposed to exempt oil companies from the cap-and-trade regulation for the fuels they sell – instituting a carbon tax in its place.  At the same time, the California Chamber of Commerce renewed a year-long challenge to the legitimacy of cap and trade by appealing a prior court judgment that upheld the program.

Yet through all of this activity, one thing has remained certain: California’s landmark AB 32 cap-and-trade program remains a strong, stable and viable example of a successful carbon-cutting program.

Today, results of the cap-and-trade program’s quarterly auction were published and show that, for the sixth straight time, California businesses were able to successfully bid on and acquire allowances to fulfill their compliance obligations. This was the first opportunity to purchase 2014 and 2017 vintage allowances from the state, and every allowance offered for sale was purchased – a clear signal that companies are taking the program seriously.

Although overall demand for 2014 and 2017 credits was reduced compared to prior auctions, there were 6.29 million more bids than could be filled because of high demand. These conditions reflect continued interest in the market, coupled with an expectation of allowance availability in future auctions.

2014 vintage allowances, which can be used for compliance starting this year, sold for $11.48, which is 14 cents above this year’s floor price of $11.34. 2017 vintage allowances cannot be used for compliance until the year 2017, yet a complete sell-out of these allowances in last week’s auction at a price of $11.38 indicates that companies continue to be confident in the program’s strength and longevity. It is clear that companies remain focused on planning their compliance strategies despite recent distractions.

71 companies registered for this auction, representing all regulated sectors of the market, which shows California companies are factoring the cost of carbon into their financial strategies. This all leads up to November 2014, when companies will, for the first time, have to demonstrate they can satisfy a portion of their compliance obligations by holding enough allowances to cover 30% of 2013 emissions. The state raised an additional $130.7 million from this auction, which will be invested in further greenhouse gas reduction projects. At least $32.7 million of this money will go to projects that benefit disadvantaged communities in California – as required under state law.

It’s clear from this auction, and the five successful auctions preceding it, that California has a program that is working. It’s also a program that has support from the majority of Californians. Given the demonstrated staying power and the progress achieved in the first year of the AB 32 cap-and-trade program, it’s no wonder that the market has remained strong despite a flurry of activity surrounding the program.

Current Auction (2014 Vintage Allowances)
Number of allowances offered19,538,695
Percentage purchased100%
Settlement price$11.48

Advance Auction (2017 Vintage Allowances)

Number of allowances offered9,260,000
Percentage purchased100%
Settlement price$11.38

 

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