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Calif. carbon allowance prices continue to shift higher as year-end nears

During the week ended Dec. 24, over-the-counter prices for California carbon allowances continued to climb in volatile end-of-year activity.

The December 2019 vintage 2019 California carbon allowance contract was assessed in a bid-and-offer spread of $17.60/tonne to $17.65/tonne, increasing 11 cents from Dec. 19 prices. As of Dec. 24, the December 2020 vintage 2020 California carbon allowance contract was eyed in a bid-and-ask range of $18.42/tonne to $18.52/tonne, up 5 cents.

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Market sources said California carbon allowance secondary market prices were swept higher because participants were likely moving positions from the vintage 2019 contract to future vintages before the end of the year.

California and Quebec will hold their first quarterly allowance auction of 2020 on Feb. 19 under the Western Climate Initiative, or WCI, according to a Dec. 20 notice from the California Air Resources Board. The sale will offer more than 57 million current vintage and more than 8.6 million future vintage allowances for sale. An auction reserve price of $16.68/tonne will be used in 2020, increasing from $15.62/tonne in 2019.

In the WCI's previous sale held Nov. 19, 100% of the more than 67 million current vintage allowances cleared at $17.00/tonne, $1.38 above the 2019 floor price of $15.62/tonne but 16 cents below the August auction value. Additionally, more than 9 million future vintage 2022 allowances were sold at a clearing price of $16.80/tonne.

The California and Quebec cap-and-trade programs were joined under the WCI at the start of 2014. California's cap-and-trade system covers emissions from utility and industrial facilities that emit more than 25,000 tonnes of carbon each year and from entities that opted in to the program.

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