RGGI’s Third Auction Brings In Divergent Bids of $3.51 and $3.05

RGGI, Inc. the operators of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) today announced the results of its third auction of CO2 allowances, held on March 18, 2009.  The auction offered allowances from all ten states participating in RGGI — Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont. 

 As we noted earlier, new for RGGI’s third auction was that the states offered just under 2.2 million allowances for the 2012 vintage, providing a first-look at future market prices for RGGI allowances. These 2012 allowances sold at a clearing price of $3.05, while the 31.5 million 2009 vintage allowances offered sold at a clearing price of $3.51 per allowance, up nearly 4% from the December 17th auction’s clearing price of $3.38 and significantly above the initial auction’s clearing price of $3.07. This increase seems particularly notable given current economic conditions.

For the first time, RGGI, Inc. also released the range of bid prices, allowing some insight into how CO2 is valued by the players in these auctions. Bid prices for the 2009 vintage allowances ranged from $1.86 (the minimum clearing price) to $10.00, while bids for the 2012 vintage allowances ranged from $1.86 to $4.40. Regulated generators and their affiliates continued the trend from the first two auctions of winning the vast majority of the allowances – 78% of 2009 and 93% of 2012.

It is interesting, though not surprising, that 2009 vintage allowances raked in higher bids than the 2012 vintage allowances. Given that RGGI allowances may be banked without limitation and used in future years, the 2009 vintage allowances are arguably more valuable. Even so, the fact that the 2012 vintage allowances sold for $3.05, lower even than the first RGGI auction’s clearing price of $3.07, indicates some lack of confidence in those allowances’ future value. The 2012 allowances are the first to fall within RGGI’s second three-year compliance period (2012-2015), which is significant because 2015 is the first year that the RGGI cap begins its annual process of ratcheting down 2.5%. One might think that this feature would make the allowances more valuable.  However, there remains significant uncertainty regarding what the carbon emission market will look like in 2012, whether there will be a national cap-and-trade system, and whether RGGI will still exist. Given that uncertainty, this relatively low price is understandable.

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