Date of This Version

December 2012


Energy and climate policies are usually seen as measures to internalize externalities. However, as a side effect, these policies redistribute wealth between consumers and producers, and within these groups. While redistribution is seldom the focus of the academic literature in energy economics, it plays a central role in real world policy debates. This paper compares the redistribution effects of two major electricity policies: support schemes for renewable energy sources, and CO2 pricing. We find that the redistribution effects of both policies are large, and they work in opposed directions: while renewables support transfers wealth from producers to consumers, carbon pricing does the opposite. More specifically, we show that moderate amounts of wind subsidies leave consumers better off even if they bear the costs of subsidies. In the case of CO2 pricing, we find that while suppliers as a whole benefit even without free allocation of emission certificates, large amounts of producer surplus are redistributed between different types of producers. These findings are derived from an analytical model of electricity markets, and a calibrated numerical model of the Northwestern European integrated power system. Our findings imply that a society with a preference for avoiding large redistribution might prefer a mix of policies, even if CO2 pricing alone is the first best climate policy in terms of allocative efficiency.