DiscoverEnergy Policy NowWho Pays the Price for Stranded Energy Assets?
Who Pays the Price for Stranded Energy Assets?

Who Pays the Price for Stranded Energy Assets?

Update: 2021-10-19


A climate economist looks at the impact that the stranding of fossil fuel assets may have on communities, and at policies that might mitigate economic hardship. 

As pressure builds to decarbonize the global energy system, much of today’s energy infrastructure is becoming obsolete. Over the past decade more than half of the coal fired power plants in the United States have closed as coal generation has been replaced by natural gas and renewables, while coal plants elsewhere, such as in China, increasingly operate at a financial loss.  

The value of certain fossil energy reserves has fallen too. The stock market decline of major energy companies such as ExxonMobil, once the most valuable company in the world, has come as expectations for future oil demand have fallen, making these companies’ vast underground oil reserves look less valuable today. And the natural gas industry faces an uncertain future as the role that gas can, and should play in tomorrow’s clean system is debated.  

What all of this means is that some portion of fossil fuel companies’ investments in reserves and infrastructure will lose its value, and become what economists call stranded assets. The prospect of stranded energy assets raises concern among investors, and policymakers who must juggle near term economic interests with essential climate goals. 

University of Southern California economist Matthew Kahn discusses the growing concern over stranded energy assets, and looks at some of the people and places that may suffer when the value of assets drops. He also explores policy solutions to address the problem of stranded assets while taking vulnerable communities into account.

Matthew Kahn is the Provost Professor of Economics and Spatial Sciences at the University of Southern California.

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Who Pays the Price for Stranded Energy Assets?

Who Pays the Price for Stranded Energy Assets?

Matthew Kahn, USC