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What caused the drop in European electricity prices? A factor decomposition analysis

Open Access Article

Abstract:
European wholesale electricity prices have dropped by nearly two thirds since their all-time high around 2008. Different factors have been blamed, or praised, for having caused the price slump: the expansion of renewable energy; the near-collapse of the European emissions trading scheme; over-optimistic power plant investments; a decline in final electricity consumption; and cheap coal and natural gas. This ex-post study of European electricity markets from 2008 to 2015 uses a fundamental power market model to quantify their individual contributions on day-ahead prices. The two countries we study in detail, Germany and Sweden, differ significantly: fuel and CO2 prices were important price drivers in Germany, but in Sweden it was electricity demand. This difference is explained by the nature of the hydro-dominate Nordic electricity system. In both countries, however, the single largest factor depressing prices was the expansion of renewable energy. At the same time, Germany's nuclear phase-out had an upward effect on prices. If one defines the Energiewende as the combination of these two policies, its net effect on power prices was negligible.

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Keywords: electricity price, ex-post analysis, utility crisis

DOI: 10.5547/01956574.39.1.lhir

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Published in Volume 39, Number 1 of The Quarterly Journal of the IAEE's Energy Economics Education Foundation.