California’s budget for the next fiscal year, signed by Governor Brown on June 20, includes $832 million in auction revenues from the Cap and Trade Program, which will go toward high-speed rail, public transportation, energy efficiency, and other projects to support low-carbon, sustainable communities. Where did that money come from? In some cases, from industrial firms like cement producers and food processors, which are responsible for 20% of statewide greenhouse gas emissions and are required to buy allowances to cover some of their emissions.
Our new study, Cap and Trade in Practice: Barriers and Opportunities for Industrial Emissions Reductions in California, explores how those industrial firms are making decisions under the Cap and Trade Program. More specifically, we wanted to know if industrial firms, given their typical decision-making processes, would invest in the emissions reductions options that are most cost-effective on paper — and if not, what are the barriers? We focus on the cement industry, which is a major player in the industrial sector and is also the largest consumer of coal in California.
The carbon price is making a difference
We find that the carbon price is making a difference in how cement firms approach business decisions about actions that would reduce emissions, such as investing in energy efficiency or switching to cleaner fuel. Firms are considering the carbon price when they make investment decisions, and our modeling shows that the carbon price significantly changes the financial attractiveness of several abatement options.
As an example, this graph shows how the carbon price adds to the value of an investment in energy efficiency. The additional savings from reducing the firm’s obligations under the Cap and Trade Program would add around 50% to the value of the investment if the carbon price is near the price floor — or could more than triple the value of the investment if the carbon price is at the top of its target range.