Green Agreement in the Electricity Market

An ex-post evaluation of the 2013 Dutch Coal Power Plants Closure Agreement by Ilaria Noviello and Shaun Tey ’21

Smoke stacks
Photo by Andreas Felske on Unsplash

The full title of this project is “Green Agreement in the Electricity Market: An ex-post evaluation of the 2013 Dutch Coal Power Plants Closure Agreement.”

Editor’s note: This post is part of a series showcasing BSE master projects. The project is a required component of all Master’s programs at the Barcelona School of Economics.

Abstract

There has been much theoretical discussion on whether Green Agreements can be a cost efficient means of improving the sustainability of products, but no empirical studies have been done on what the cost and benefits of past Green Agreements have been. 

In order to provide a substantive contribution to this discussion, we have undertaken an ex-post analysis of an agreement in the Netherlands to close five aging coal power plants in 2016 and 2017. First, we evaluated the ACM’s assumption that the plant closures would result in an increase of the Dutch wholesale electricity price in the Netherlands by undertaking a before-and-after analysis. Second, we examined how the ACM quantification of the benefits deriving from emissions reductions would have changed if it used its same methodology a year after the plants closed (in mid-2018). Third, we considered how the quantification of the benefits would have changed if the ACM used an alternative evaluation technique based on estimating consumers’ willingness to pay for Green Electricity.

Our findings indicate that the ACM was likely incorrect to oppose the agreement to close the coal power plants.

Conclusions

  • The before-and-after analysis indicates that the agreement to close the coal power plants did not result in any increase in the wholesale price of electricity in the Netherlands. This implies that this Green Agreement had no cost, while still producing a benefit of reduced emissions.
  • Our examination of the ACM’s method for quantifying the benefits derived from reduced emissions finds it to be volatile. In particular, due to subsequent changes to the methods used by the Dutch Government for valuing reduced emissions, the benefit of the Closure Agreement would be regarded as far higher if evaluated today. 
  • We find that it is unviable to use an alternative evaluation technique based on estimating consumers’ willingness to pay for Green Electricity.

Our conclusion suggests that those working on ex-ante assessments of Green Agreements should recognise that the volatility of their government’s approach to environmental policy can alter the accuracy of their assessments. As a result of this, regulators should coordinate better across government departments, in order to understand which methodologies are currently subject to scrutiny and could possibly change in the future.

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