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GSBGEN 336: Energy Markets and Policy

Transforming the global energy system to reduce climate change impacts, ensure security of supply, and foster economic development of the world's poorest regions depends on the ability of commercial players to deliver the needed energy at scale. Technological innovation is a necessary but not sufficient condition for this to occur. The complex institutional frameworks that regulate energy markets in the United States and around the world will play a major role in determining the financial viability of firms in the energy sector. In this course we survey the institutional contexts for energy enterprises of all types and consider what kinds of business models work in each setting. We study in detail how markets function for carbon (assessing the advantages and disadvantages of different policy tools and considering in particular California's implementation of A.B. 32); electricity (with extensive discussion of wholesale electricity markets, energy trading, and issues of market power); renewable energy technologies (focusing on ways to manage intermittency and on how renewable energy businesses respond to government incentives); nuclear power (as a case study of how the regulatory process affects investment decisions); oil and natural gas (treating both conventional and unconventional resources and emphasizing the key role of risk management in an industry characterized by uncertainty and high capital requirements); transportation fuels (discussing biofuels incentives, fuel efficiency standards, and other policy tools to lower carbon intensity); and energy for low-income populations, for which affordability and distribution pose special challenges. A primary teaching tool in the course is a game-based simulation of California's electricity markets under cap and trade. Student teams play the role of power companies and compete to maximize return by bidding generation into electricity markets and trading carbon allowances. The objective of the course is to provide a robust intellectual framework for analyzing how a business can most constructively participate in any sector like energy that is heavily affected by government policy. Instructors: Frank A. Wolak, Director, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development; Mark Thurber, Associate Director, Program on Energy and Sustainable Development.
Units: 3 | Grading: GSB Student Option LTR/PF
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