Substantial renewable energy (RE) cost reductions have raised the prospect of a subsidy-free RE era of the energy transition. The envisaged policy cornerstones of this era are carbon markets, which create economic incentives for sustaining further RE deployment. However, this overlooks that exposing RE to market risks and increasing interest rates would result in substantially higher financing cost, which in turn would lead to much steeper carbon price paths. The resulting political pressure may provoke a price-depressing regulatory intervention, disrupting further RE expansion. Here we conceptualize this feedback and infer indicators for the risk of such an intervention. By quantifying these indicators for the European Union, we find that increased financing cost could double carbon prices in the long term, halve the rate of renewable capacity deployment in the next 15 years and considerably increase the profits of fossil fuel plants. This implies a substantial risk of pushback that policymakers should safeguard against.
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This research was conducted as part of the EU’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme, project INNOPATHS (grant agreement number 730403, M.P., O.T.), project GREENFIN (European Research Council, grant agreement number 948220, B.S.) and project FFF (German Federal Ministry of Education and Research, grant agreement 01LA1810C, M.P., S.O.). As part of the INNOPATHS project, it was partly supported by the Swiss State Secretariat for Education, Research and Innovation (SERI) under contract number 16.0222 (F.E., B.S., T.S.S.). The opinions expressed and arguments employed herein do not necessarily reflect the official views of the Swiss Government.
The authors declare no competing interests.
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Pahle, M., Tietjen, O., Osorio, S. et al. Safeguarding the energy transition against political backlash to carbon markets. Nat Energy 7, 290–296 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1038/s41560-022-00984-0