RGGI Allowances on the Secondary Market: Slow but Steady?

Not surprisingly, the secondary market price for Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (RGGI) allowances fell for the 4th quarter of 2009, as noted by RGGI Market Monitor Potomac Economics in their recent report.  Trading in RGGI allowances futures declined from 319 million allowances in the third quarter of 2009 to 127 million in the fourth quarter, despite the number of firms participating remaining the same.  Futures prices also declined 8% — from $2.45 to $2.25.   Even so, futures prices remain notably higher than the clearing prices of the RGGI auctions, which were $2.19 and $2.05, respectively, in the September and December 2009 auctions.

One reason for the continuing decrease in RGGI allowance prices, both through auction and on the secondary market, is the steep decline in CO2 emissions from the RGGI-subject power plants.   As highlighted in a recent report by Environment Northeast, due to the economic crisis, fuel switching energy efficiency programs, and renewable energy, emissions from those plants have fallen 34% since the start of the program, to just above 120 million tons of CO2.  This is well below the current RGGI cap of 188 million tons, and even below RGGI’s ultimate 2018 goal of 10% reductions from 2005 levels. As such, RGGI allowances will likely remain a surplus commodity well into the future. 

Even given these facts, though, RGGI allowances are far from worthless.  Particularly given that the House-passed ACES bill, as well as all of the front-runner energy and climate bills possibly considered by the Senate have contained provisions for the exchange of federal allowances for RGGI allowances, even the RGGI allowances that might not be needed by RGGI-covered entities could still be worth their weight in federal CO2 credits sometime in the future.

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