Opportunity Cost of Carbon Pricing and White Certificate Programs: A Business Case

  •  Giacomo Di Foggia    
  •  Massimo Beccarello    


Carbon pricing aims to capture the external costs of emissions and link them to their sources through a price signal, while market-based policy tools support investments in energy efficiency, rewarding investors following certified energy savings. The interplay between the emission trading system and the white certificate scheme is complex, especially regarding opportunity costs and the efficiency of the two mechanisms combined in achieving environmental goals. Using monthly data covering six years, we analyze how carbon pricing and white certificate programs intertwine. We consider the opportunity cost as the savings from an energy efficiency intervention under the white certificate program in a firm covered by the emission trading system. We calculate the €/MWh savings corresponding to a one MWh reduction in energy consumption to assess the contribution of white certificates and the emission trading system as determinants of the savings induced by an energy efficiency intervention. We then simulate how the economic determinants of saving vary as the dynamics of the gas and emission permit markets change. The relative weight of the components on saving differs significantly according to the dynamics of the related commodity and environmental markets. Provided that the emission trading system is mandatory for certain industries while participation in a white certificate scheme is voluntary, we argue that the overlap between the two mechanisms can be effective. This is important for policymaking, periodic fine-tuning interventions to market-based mechanisms, and increasing flexibility. The paper also has business implications, given that energy managers may use this framework in building energy management strategies.

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