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When and Under What Conditions Does an Emission Trading Scheme Become Cost Effective?

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This paper studies when and under what conditions the actions undertaken by the power plants involved in China's emission trading scheme (ETS) pilot became cost effective. Based on unique plant-level panel data and the difference-in-differences strategy, we identify that an insignificant initial reduction in cost efficiency occurred at the announcement stage for power plants in the pilot provinces; however, the cost efficiency of the pilot plants increased significantly following formal policy implementation. Additionally, the by-stage treatment effects differed across the pilot provinces due to localized market and non-market variations. Localized conditions of higher marketization, stricter policy enforcement, and lower carbon dependence enhanced this positive effect. The synthetic control results confirmed this variation in the policy effects. The carbon trading pilots resulted in improved efficiency in power plants in Shanghai, Guangdong, and Tianjin during the period 2013–2017, with an associated total cost saving of approximately 29.75 million RMB. To enhance the efficacy of the ETS policy, our findings suggest that the design of the policy should consider localized external factors.

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Keywords: Carbon trading, ETS, Cost efficiency, Thermal power plant, China

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.45.2.hzha

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Published in Volume 45, Number 2 of the bi-monthly journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.


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