RGGI Prices Fall Again in 5th Auction: $2.19 and $1.87

The Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) has released the clearing prices from its 5th quarterly auction of CO2 allowances, held on September 9, 2009.  Prices for the 28.4 million 2009 vintage allowances sold fell sharply from the June auction’s clearing price of $3.23 to $2.19, and the 2.1 million 2012 vintage allowances sold for only $1.87, just one cent above the market floor of $1.86, and well below the $3.05 that they earned at the March 2009 auction, which was the first at which these later vintage allowances were offered for sale. 

Interestingly, while the number of participants in the 2009 vintage auction remained relatively steady, no non-compliance entities (persons not regulated under RGGI) participated in the 2012 vintage auction.  These participants had amounted to 38% of the bids for 2012 allowances in the June auction. 

RGGI, Inc. has also released the range of bid prices in the 5th auction, allowing some insight into how the players value these allowances.  Bid prices for the 2009 vintage allowances ranged from the minimum clearing price of $1.86 to $12.00, the same as in the 4th auction, while bid prices for the 2012 auction ranged from $1.86 to just $3.00, down from June’s high bid price of $3.84 and March’s high bid price of $4.40.

Wednesday’s auction was the first since the passage of ACES by the House in late June.  ACES provides for an even exchange of RGGI allowances for national allowances, something that could increase the value of RGGI allowances going forward, as it removes some uncertainty.  Nonetheless, pundits had predicted lower prices from this auction for a number of reasons, including doubt about the likelihood that the Senate will pass a national cap-and-trade program

The decrease in prices and lack of participation in the 2012 auction is also interesting given a report released on Wednesday by Point Carbon which predicts that actual emissions from the RGGI-regulated northeastern power plants will already be much lower than the RGGI cap, set at 188 million allowances per year.  According to Climate Wire, the report notes that the economic downturn, combined with a cool summer and warm winter reduced the amount of fuel for electricity used in the 10-state region. Falling natural gas prices have also prompted generators to switch away from more carbon-intensive fuels like coal and oil to natural gas.  The report predicts that the CO2 emissions from the 233 power plants regulated under RGGI will emit 155 million tons this year, well below the cap.

Although the RGGI cap will begin decreasing by 2.5% each year in 2015, the years until then may provide an opportunity for regulated generators and other interested bidders to stockpile  allowances.  Given that RGGI allowances may be banked for future use without restriction, such a large number of allowances being banked could keep prices depressed for some time.

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