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Energy Journal Issue

The Energy Journal
Volume 34, Number 4

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U.S. Ethanol Policy: Time to Reconsider?

James M. Griffin

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5547/01956574.34.4.1
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This paper examines both the intended and unintended consequences of current U.S. ethanol policy. Originally, the 2007 legislation was intended to benefit consumers with lower gasoline prices, to reduce carbon emissions, and to promote oil security by displacing imported oil with domestically produced ethanol. While well-intentioned, the realized benefits have been minimal to consumers, the environment, and oil security. Alternatively, the unintended consequences on corn and other food commodity prices are having severe repercussions particularly in developing countries where consumers have more limited substitution possibilities. The extreme drought of 2012 illustrated the folly of mandating fixed quantities of ethanol use in gasoline, while allowing the residual to be left for food uses. It is time to reconsider and rescind the ethanol mandates.

"Rebound" Effects from Increased Energy Efficiency: A Time to Pause and Reflect

Karen Turner

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5547/01956574.34.4.2
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The phenomenon of rebound effects has sparked considerable academic, policy and press debate in recent years over the effectiveness of energy efficiency policy. There has been a huge surge in empirical studies claiming rebound effects of hugely varying magnitudes. The contention of this paper is that the lack of consensus in the literature is grounded in a rush to empirical estimation in the absence of solid analytical foundations. Focus on measuring a single "rebound" measure has led to a neglect of detail on precisely what type of change in energy use is considered in any one study and on the range of mechanisms governing the economy-wide response. This paper attempts to bring a reflective pause to the development of the rebound literature, with a view to identifying the key issues that policymakers need to understand and analysts need to focus their attention on.

Re-Identifying the Rebound: What About Asymmetry?

Manuel Frondel and Colin Vance

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5547/01956574.34.4.3
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Rebound effects measure the behaviorally induced offset in the reduction of energy consumption following efficiency improvements. Using panel estimation methods and household travel diary data collected in Germany between 1997 and 2009, this study identifies the rebound effect in private transport by allowing for the possibility that fuel price elasticities--from which rebound effects can be derived--are asymmetric. This approach rests on empirical evidence suggesting that the response in individual travel demand to price increases is stronger than to decreases. We argue that such an asymmetric response would require referencing price elasticities derived from price decreases in order to identify the rebound effect, as it represents the response to a decrease in unit cost for car travel due to improved fuel efficiency. Failing to reject the null hypothesis of a symmetric price response, we alternatively estimate a reversible specification and obtain a rebound estimate for single-vehicle households being in the range of 46 to 70%, which is in line with an earlier German study by Frondel, Peters, and Vance (2008).

Improving Congestion Management: How to Facilitate the Integration of Renewable Generation in Germany

Friedrich Kunz

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5547/01956574.34.4.4
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In this paper the German congestion management regime is analyzed and future congestion management costs are assessed given a higher share of intermittent renewable generation. In this context, cost-based re-dispatching of power plants and technical flexibility through topology optimization are considered as market-based and technical congestion management methods. To replicate the current market regime in Germany a two-step procedure is chosen consisting of a transactional spot market model and a congestion management model. This uniform pricing model is compared to a nodal pricing regime. The results show that currently congestion can mainly be managed by re-dispatching power plants and optimizing the network topology. However, congestion management costs tend to increase significantly in future years if the developments of transmission as well as generation infrastructure diverge. It is concluded that there is a need for improving the current congestion management regime to achieve an efficient long-term development of the German electricity system.

OPEC "Fair Price" Pronouncements and the Market Price of Crude Oil

Celso Brunetti, Bahattin Buyuksahin, Michel A. Robe, and Kirsten R. Soneson

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5547/01956574.34.4.5
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OPEC producers, individually or collectively, often make statements regarding the "fair price" of crude oil. In some cases, the officials commenting are merely affirming the market price prevailing at the time. In many cases, however, we document that they explicitly disagree with contemporaneous oil futures prices. A natural question is whether these "fair price" pronouncements contain information not already reflected in the market price of crude oil. To find the answer, we collect "fair price" statements made from 2000 through 2010 by officials from OPEC or OPEC member countries. Visually, the "fair price" series looks like a sampling discretely drawn (with a lag) from the daily futures market price series. Formally, we use two primary methodologies to establish that "fair price" pronouncements have little influence on the market price of crude oil and provide little or no new news to oil futures market participants.

Necessity or Luxury Good? Household Energy Spending and Income in Britain 1991-2007

Helena Meier, Tooraj Jamasb, and Luis Orea

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5547/01956574.34.4.6
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In recent years, many households around the world have experienced reductions in real incomes and higher energy prices, both of which have important demand and welfare implications. A better understanding of the socio-economic determinants of household energy demand and spending is therefore important from a welfare perspective. This is particularly useful in the case of liberalised energy markets where there is a need to devise new and innovative energy policies for the residential sector. This paper explores British household spending on energy in total and on electricity and gas separately. As the relative importance of essential or luxury services of energy varies with income, we focus our analysis on this driver of energy spending and estimate Engel spending curves using static and dynamic models for a panel dataset comprising over 77,000 observations for the 1991-2007 period. The lack of household level price data is common in liberalized retail energy markets. This issue is addressed by a new modeling approach based on within and between differences in regional energy prices. We find that the Engel spending curves are S-shaped. Income elasticities for energy spending are, however, U-shaped and smaller than unity, suggesting that energy services are a necessity for households.

Capital-Energy Relationships: An Analysis when Disaggregating by Industry and Different Types of Capital

Miguel A. Tovar and Emma M. Iglesias

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5547/01956574.34.4.7
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In this paper we analyze the relationship between capital and energy through cross price elasticities. First, we extend Thomsen's (2000) methodology in order to link the short and long run in a panel data setting, by including an equation for the motion of capital. Then, by using an expansive industry-level data set and two functional forms, we show clear evidence of long run complementarity in all the analyzed industries, and with respect to the different types of capital that we consider (buildings and machinery). We identify the industries with the greatest degree of dependence between energy and capital. These are therefore, the industries in which a policy of increasing energy prices via taxes to reduce energy consumption may have a serious effect, reducing their investment levels. Hence we recommend that a better governmental policy would be to encourage technological diffusion.

The Costs of Electricity Systems with a High Share of Fluctuating Renewables: A Stochastic Investment and Dispatch Optimization Model for Europe

Stephan Nagl, Michaela Fursch, and Dietmar Lindenberger

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5547/01956574.34.4.8
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Renewable energies are meant to cover a large share of the future electricity demand. However, the availability of wind and solar power depends on local weather conditions. In this article, we analyze the impact of the stochastic availability of wind and solar energy on the cost-minimal power plant mix and the related total system costs. To determine optimal conventional, renewable and storage capacities for different shares of renewables, we apply a stochastic investment and dispatch optimization model to the European electricity market. The model considers stochastic feed-in structures and full load hours of wind and solar technologies and different correlations between regions and technologies. Key findings include a lower value of fluctuating renewables and higher system costs compared to deterministic investment and dispatch models. Furthermore, the value of solar technologies is--relative to wind turbines--underestimated when neglecting negative correlations between wind speeds and solar radiation.

Measuring Productivity Gains from Deregulation of the Japanese Urban Gas Industry

Kenta Tanaka and Shunsuke Managi

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5547/01956574.34.4.9
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The Japanese government initiated a series of regulatory reforms in the mid-1990s. The Japanese urban gas industry consists of various sized private and non-private firms. Numerous previous studies find that deregulation leads to productivity improvements. We extend the literature by analyzing deregulation, privatization, and other aspects of a regulated industry using unique firm level data. This study measures productivity to evaluate the effect of the deregulation reform. Using data from 205 firms from 1993 to 2004, we find that the deregulation effect differs depending on firm size. Competitive pressure contributes to advanced productivity. The deregulation of gas sales to commercial customers is the most important factor for advancing productivity.

Investments in Imperfect Power Markets under Carbon Pricing: A Case Study Based Analysis

Michael Pahle, Kai Lessmann, Ottmar Edenhofer, and Nico Bauer

DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5547/01956574.34.4.10
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This article addresses the question of how investments in imperfectly competitive electricity markets interact with a price on carbon. The analysis is based on a dynamic numerical Cournot model calibrated to the German market and focuses on (a) the level of investments and technology choice and (b) welfare impacts under optimal carbon pricing. As a special feature, we also restrict access to one technology (coal) to strategic players ("technological market power"). The main results are: (a) In the long-run prices reach competitive levels due to entry by the competitive fringe. If technological market power prevails, this can only be accomplished through high carbon prices. (b) Investment levels and technology choice show different patterns under market power and perfect competition. (c) Apart from driving investments, carbon pricing also renders old carbon-intensive capacities unprofitable and thus induces more extensive fleet turnover. (d) Welfare almost always increases as a result of carbon pricing.