Toward a Tougher Cap and Trade Program
While the nine participating Northeastern and mid-Atlantic states, including New York, have found that RGGI (pronounced reggie) has succeeded in producing almost $1 billion for energy efficiency programs and in encouraging reliance on renewable energy, they are considering making some changes.
On Monday, the Center for Climate Change Law at Columbia Law School held a panel discussion on RGGI’s future in which various experts, including officials from the energy industry and New York’s Department of Environmental Conservation, took part. They addressed the environmental and economic impact of the program’s cap and trade system, in which a ceiling is set on greenhouse gas emissions and electric utilities pay for their carbon dioxide emissions by buying credits or allowances. Utilities with emissions below an allotted cap can sell or trade their unused allowances in online auctions held four times a year.
The participants discussed whether RGGI should be linked with other trading programs like California’s, whether the program should lower its cap on emissions to require further reductions, and whether the RGGI should include other sources of greenhouse gas emissions beyond the electricity sector.
Because of the faltering economy and a switch from coal to natural gas by many utilities, electricity demand and emissions have been lower than expected, so power suppliers have easily met their caps. New Jersey Gov.Chris Christie cited this issue when he pulled out his state out of the program last year.