A Real Option Analysis on Retiring Existing Coal-Fired Electricity Plants in the United States

20 Pages Posted: 16 Oct 2018

See all articles by Sang Baum Kang

Sang Baum Kang

Illinois Institute of Technology - Stuart School of Business

Pascal Letourneau

University of Wisconsin - Whitewater

Steve X. Sala

Bank of America - Bank of America Merrill Lynch

Date Written: October 10, 2018

Abstract

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions from the electricity generation sector, the United States introduced the Clean Power Plan (CPP) in 2015. Specifically, building block #2 aimed to replace coal-fired electricity generation with natural-gas-fired generation. In 2017, the US federal government decided not to honor the United Nations’ Paris Agreement and repealed the CPP. In this paper, we study the conditions under which a reasonable green policy by a US state encourages the early replacement of existing coal plants with new natural gas plants, as CPP building block #2 suggested. Using a real option model, we calculate the probability that a firm makes an investment decision to retire an existing coal plant and build a new natural gas plant within the next few years. We find that the results critically depend on the remaining useful life of the existing coal plant. When the remaining life is short, government policies do not play a significant role in this asset replacement decision. However, if the remaining useful life is approximately twenty-plus years, a state government’s green policy does play a significant role in the plant’s replacement. Because such plants were built during the “coal plant boom” period from 1965 to 1987, our findings are particularly relevant.

Keywords: coal plant, natural gas plant, emission market, real option, green policy

Suggested Citation

Kang, Sang Baum and Letourneau, Pascal and Sala, Steve X., A Real Option Analysis on Retiring Existing Coal-Fired Electricity Plants in the United States (October 10, 2018). Journal of Energy Markets, Forthcoming, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=3264104

Sang Baum Kang (Contact Author)

Illinois Institute of Technology - Stuart School of Business ( email )

565 W Adams St
Room 454
Chicago, IL
United States
312-906-6577 (Phone)

Pascal Letourneau

University of Wisconsin - Whitewater ( email )

Whitewater, WI 53190
United States

Steve X. Sala

Bank of America - Bank of America Merrill Lynch ( email )

United States

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