Climate Change: California Carbon Prices Go Sideways

By Published On: November 4, 2011

In the wake of the California Air Resources Board adopting final amendments to its carbon cap-and-trade market, the price of carbon allowances eligible for complying with the program didn’t see any major price movement last month or any spike in trading volume. Allowances traded in the $18 to $20 range, with each allowance representing the right to emit one ton of carbon dioxide. The prices were detailed in an Oct. 31 analysis by Evolution Markets. The analysis found that the price of early action credits, representing emissions reductions made before any requirement, traded for $10 to $11 per metric ton. Offsets remained around $12/ton in light trading. The first major test of the value of carbon allowances under California’s market program is expected in August, when the state plans to hold its initial emissions rights auction. * * * * * The city of Glendale--with its municipal power utility--is pursuing a greenhouse gas reduction plan aimed at trimming emissions by at least 8 percent by 2020 and 13 percent by 2035. The Nov. 1 plan also outlines steps that could achieve a more ambitious cut of up to 38 percent by 2020. The sustainability plan projects that without action carbon dioxide emissions from city operations would grow by 2020 from about 38,500 tons in 2009 to almost 41,000 tons under a business-as-usual scenario. Numerous steps to cut carbon emissions are included in the plan--from increasing energy efficiency in city buildings, to increasing the use of renewable energy at the city’s muni from 17 percent today to 33 percent by 2020. This would mark the single biggest emissions cut of 3,256 tons/year. Other big cuts would come from installing light emitting diode street lights, which would eliminate 2,507 tons of emissions/year, and planting 11,150 trees, which would take 2,846 tons of carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere each year. Glendale plans to advance a separate plan in the coming months aimed at cutting emissions generated by city residents and businesses. It’s intended to build on the sustainability plan for the city’s own operations. * * * * * California’s low carbon fuel standard is beginning to work, according to the California Air Resources Board. In an Oct. 26 notice, the Air Board said that in the first quarter of this year transportation fuel suppliers operating under the standard generated 225,000 tons of greenhouse gas reduction credits compared to other suppliers that wound up with credit deficits totaling 150,000 tons. That’s a 75,000 net surplus reduction of greenhouse gases under the standard, which requires fuel suppliers to cut the carbon intensity of the state’s motor fuels 10 percent by 2020. Key fuels for doing so are renewable electricity provided by utilities to charge up electric cars and natural gas, also supplied by utilities.

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