Climate 411

One year into its cap-and-invest program, Washington state looks to build upon its landmark climate law

Photo of mountain in Washington state

Results were released today for Washington’s fourth quarterly cap-and-invest auction, which was held on December 6th. The results from this sold-out auction show continued strong demand for allowances in the program, which has brought in substantial revenue for the state of Washington to reinvest in its communities. This is the final auction of 2023, marking the end of this program’s first year of auctions, which in total have generated close to $2 billion for Washington communities. The revenue has already begun to be distributed to different projects that benefit communities across the state, including expanding public transportation in rural areas and improving pedestrian and bicyclist safety, with much more investment to come.

December auction results

At the auction, administered by the Department of Ecology (Ecology), participating facilities submitted their bids for allowances. Washington’s major emitters are required to hold one allowance for every ton of greenhouse gas that they emit, with the total number of available allowances declining each year. This declining cap requires Washington’s businesses to reduce their climate pollution in line with the state’s climate targets. Here are the results, released today:

  • All 7,142,146 current vintage allowances offered for sale were purchased, resulting in the 4th consecutive sold out quarterly auction.
  • The current auction settled at $51.89, $29.69 above the floor price of $22.20, and $11.14 below Washington’s last quarterly auction price of $63.03.
  • This auction is projected to generate roughly $370 million in revenue, which will be invested into Washington communities to enhance climate resilience, create jobs, and improve air quality. A report from Ecology confirming the amount of revenue raised in this auction will be published on January 4.

What these results mean

The settlement price for this auction is a very promising indication of strong and stable demand in the Washington market. Covered entities are still eager to acquire allowances early in the program, but the fact that this auction settled below the Allowance Price Containment Reserve (APCR) trigger price shows that those entities also feel more confident in their ability to secure enough allowances or to further reduce their emissions.

The lower settlement price in this auction compared to recent auctions could be driven by a few factors; for one, this could be the result of previous APCR auctions fulfilling their role as price stabilizers in a market with high demand. APCR allowances were budgeted out ahead of time when the cap-and-invest program was originally designed, and they’re still under the overall allowance budget set by Ecology in order to keep Washington on track with its climate targets. Making these additional allowances available at a predetermined and transparent price point through the APCR helps to stabilize allowance prices in the program, and that’s precisely why Ecology designed this feature into the program from the start. Entities who were able to secure additional allowances at the two APCR auctions held this year may have felt more confident in this auction that they don’t need to scramble to out-bid other entities to buy up allowances.

Another factor that may have driven slightly calmer demand in this auction is the recent decision by Washington’s Department of Ecology to officially pursue linkage with the joint California-Quebec market, known as the Western Climate Initiative (WCI). The December auction was the first auction to be held following this decision, and this step towards a larger, linked market with greater access to more allowances may have given covered entities more confidence in their ability to obtain allowances in the future through this broader market. Read on for more information about this milestone decision, what it means, and what’s next!

Looking ahead: Linkage and the legislative session

In case you missed it, early last month the Department of Ecology officially announced its intention to pursue linkage with the California-Quebec market. This decision is a significant milestone in the linkage process, and if California and Quebec follow suit, it would lead to a tri-jurisdictional system operated jointly by all three parties. California, Quebec, and Washington would all be able to pool their supply of emission allowances and hold shared auctions. As we’ve written previously, these jurisdictions all stand to benefit from a linked market as it can drive faster cuts in climate pollution and support a more stable, predictable market for all participants.

Before that happens though, there are a lot of things to get done. California and Quebec each have their own processes to go through and there’s some legislative fine-tuning that Ecology is planning to request in order to make the linkage process as smooth as possible.

That means potentially making small, strategic updates to the Climate Commitment Act (CCA) to build alignment with the joint California-Quebec program, with the goal of making it easier to operate as a single, linked market. The CCA is the landmark climate policy that Washington passed in 2021 that placed a firm, declining limit on climate pollution while also providing new tools for tackling local air pollution and creating the cap-and-invest market. Thanks to the CCA, Washington is one of only a few states in the nation that’s actually on track to meet its targets. Now, state leaders have an opportunity to scale up the state’s climate action by ensuring that Washington’s cap-and-invest market is ready to deliver enhanced climate and cost-savings benefits as part of a linked market.

As things progress in the legislative session, we’ll be keeping an eye on all things CCA and linkage — stay tuned for our updates and analysis!

Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed

As Washington state considers linking carbon market with California-Quebec, this cost-containment tool ensures that its program continues to run smoothly

Fall foliage over a Washington lake

Today, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) released the results from Washington’s second Allowance Price Containment Reserve (APCR) auction, held on November 8th. At this auction, all 5 million available APCR allowances were sold at the Tier 1 price of $51.90. This auction, along with three previous sold-out cap-and-invest auctions, continues to show strong demand for allowances in Washington’s cap-and-invest program and illustrates the important role of the APCR in providing predictability and stability in allowance prices.

APCRs: A Recap

An APCR is a price containment mechanism that was designed into Washington’s cap-and-invest program as a way to keep allowance prices stable and predictable. It functions similar to a soft price ceiling by ensuring that, if a certain price is reached in a quarterly auction, a separate number of allowances set aside for this purpose become available at a separate APCR auction. Importantly, these allowances are set aside ahead of time and are still part of the overall allowance budget set by Ecology to keep Washington on track to meet its climate targets. By making these allowances available at a transparent and predetermined point, an APCR auction helps to stabilize prices in the market overall.

Want more information about how Washington’s APCR works? Check out our blog from earlier this summer explaining this key program feature.

APCR auction results

At last week’s auction, participating entities submitted bids for APCR allowances at the Tier 1 price of $51.90. All allowances were offered at the Tier 1 price, with none available at the Tier 2 price of $66.68.

Here are the results, released today:

  • Tier Price 1: 5,000,000 allowances sold at a price of $51.90 per allowance.

In this auction, Ecology offered all APCR allowances at the Tier 1 price, rather than dividing them between Tier 1 and Tier 2 prices. There were also more allowances available at this APCR auction than at August’s APCR auction, with 5 million made available this month compared with just over 1 million in August. Ecology determined that this is an important strategy for increasing market stability by putting downward pressure on compliance costs early in the program, while many covered entities are still developing their strategies for compliance and decarbonization.

What these results mean

This was Washington’s second APCR auction and its implementation shows just how important this feature is as a price-stabilizer. In the first year of this program, covered entities are still in the early stages of figuring out and implementing their plans to reduce their emissions. As these early auctions play out, businesses are inclined to out-bid each other for allowances sooner rather than later — with the expectation that allowances will get more expensive over time. This drives strong demand in these early auctions, illustrating the utility of a cost containment mechanism like the APCR. As covered entities reduce their emissions, they’ll need fewer allowances to cover their pollution — which will lower demand and keep prices low in turn.

An APCR might not be triggered at every quarterly auction, but it was designed into the program from the beginning to keep it functioning smoothly. In doing so, Ecology created a more stable and durable program while utilizing allowances that are still part of the planned allowance budget.

Cutting costs through linkage

Earlier this month, Ecology announced its decision to pursue market linkage with the joint California-Quebec carbon market. This is great news for long-term cost containment and stabilization for Washington and, if also pursued by California and Quebec, could bring about significant advantages for all participating markets. A broader, linked market could drive deeper and faster cuts in climate pollution, lower the cost of compliance for Washington companies and support a more stable, predictable market overall. Ecology’s decision is the start of a process in Washington and we’ll be watching for further developments in the Evergreen State as well as in California and Quebec.

Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed

A decade in, California’s cap-and-trade has slashed climate pollution and generated investments — where does it go from here?

Sunset on the Mohave Desert

This year, California marked the 10th anniversary of its landmark cap-and-trade program, and the Golden State has good reason to celebrate: California saw reduced year-on-year emissions from nearly every sector covered by the program. On top of delivering on critical emissions reductions, cap-and-trade has generated revenue resulting in $9.3 billion implemented through California Climate Investments programs that contribute to emission reductions, support climate equity and improve public health outcomes. And yet, there’s still much more work to be done to ensure that this program delivers reductions at the scale and speed required to avert the worst impacts of climate change while meaningfully supporting overburdened communities.

With a rulemaking in progress to make further necessary improvements to cap-and-trade, here’s what you need to know about what’s coming up through the end of the year and what to pay attention to in the new year.

Read More »

Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Policy / Comments are closed

Washington state’s carbon market continues to raise major investments, as state leaders consider linking to California-Quebec market

Results were released today for Washington’s third quarterly cap-and-invest auction, which was held on August 30th. The results from this sold-out auction continue to demonstrate strong demand for allowances in this program, which has brought in significant revenue for the state of Washington to reinvest in its communities. These results follow on two previous sold-out quarterly auctions, as well as an auction from the Allowance Price Containment Reserve last month which raised an additional $62,491,660 while functioning as a market stabilizing feature. In total, these auctions have generated $919,564,777 for Washington communities.

Read More »

Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, Policy / Read 1 Response

August Western Climate Initiative auction results show strong demand, as California contemplates increased cap-and-trade ambition

This blog was co-authored by Katelyn Roedner Sutter, California State Director at Environmental Defense Fund.

Results of the August Western Climate Initiative auction were released today, and as expected we saw strong demand for allowances. At the same time, California Air Resources Board (CARB) is continuing its series of workshops exploring potential changes to the cap-and-trade program, which are an important opportunity to increase the state’s climate ambition.

Read More »

Posted in News / Comments are closed

Washington state’s cap-and-invest program demonstrates cost containment features with special August auction

Yesterday, the Washington State Department of Ecology (Ecology) released the results from Washington’s first Allowance Price Containment Reserve (APCR) auction, held on August 9th. At this auction, all 1,054,000 of the available APCR allowances were sold at the two APCR tier prices of $51.90 and $66.68, with 527,000 allowances available at each price tier. This auction, along with two previous sold-out cap-and-invest auctions, shows continued strong demand for allowances under Washington’s cap-and-invest program and demonstrates the important role that an APCR can play in building predictability and stability into allowances prices.

Read More »

Posted in California, Carbon Markets, Cities and states, Economics, Energy, Greenhouse Gas Emissions, Health, News, Policy / Comments are closed