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Northeast carbon market secondary prices rise in post-holiday uptick

Over-the-counter prices for Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative CO2 allowances advanced during the week ended Jan. 13, with an increase in trading activity after the holidays triggering the upswing in values.

As of Jan. 13, the January 2020 vintage 2020 RGGI contract was pegged in a bid-and-offer spread of $5.74/ton to $5.85/ton, gaining 13 cents from Jan. 2 assessments. The new benchmark December 2020 vintage 2020 contract was eyed in a bid-and-offer spread of $5.90/ton to $5.98/ton, rising 10 cents from Jan. 2.

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The RGGI participating states will hold their next quarterly allowance auction March 11, according to a notice released Jan. 14, with 16,208,347 allowances to be placed on the block. The minimum reserve price to be used in this year's auctions is $2.32/ton, compared to $2.26/ton in 2019.

Additionally, the RGGI cost containment reserve for this year is composed of 11.8 million allowances. The cost containment reserve is a fixed additional supply of allowances that is only available for sale if prices exceed certain levels. This year's level is $10.77/ton, up from $10.51/ton in 2019.

At the program's previous auction in December 2019, more than 13 million RGGI CO2 allowances sold at a clearing price of $5.61/ton, up 41 cents from the September 2019 price of $5.20/ton, which had been the lowest quarterly sale price in a year.

The December 2019 RGGI auction generated $73.6 million for the nine states to reinvest in strategic programs, including energy efficiency, renewable energy, direct bill assistance and greenhouse gas abatement programs.

The RGGI participating states are Connecticut, Delaware, Maine, Massachusetts, Maryland, New Hampshire, New York, Rhode Island and Vermont but the list expands this year to include founding member New Jersey, which left in 2012.

New Jersey was part of the RGGI when it was created in 2005, but former Gov. Chris Christie withdrew the state, saying the program had not substantially lowered emissions in the state, had a negative impact on its economy and led to higher electricity rates for consumers.

The RGGI program places a cap on regionwide carbon emissions from power plants in these states. A regulated power plant must hold CO2 allowances equal to its emissions for each three-year control period. The RGGI's fourth control period began Jan. 1, 2018, and extends through Dec. 31 of this year.

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