The interaction of wholesale electricity market structures under futures with decarbonization policy goals: A complexity conundrum

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Competitive wholesale electricity markets can help facilitate energy system decarbonization by incentivizing investments in clean energy technologies that meet evolving system needs. We explore market structure impacts on generator operations and deployment by risk-averse, heterogeneous investor firms using the Electricity Markets and Investment Suite – Agent-based Simulation (EMIS-AS) model. We apply clean energy targets of 45%–100% by 2035 considering energy, ancillary services, capacity, and clean energy credit products and pricing and eligibility rules. Results highlight a complexity conundrum, whereby finding the “right” market design to achieve decarbonization goals and avoid unintended consequences can be a highly-nuanced, non-incremental challenge. Carefully designed energy-only markets can achieve the same clean energy targets as capacity market structures but with different revenue and profitability outcomes. Operating reserve demand curve-based scarcity pricing can substitute capacity markets for similar deployment outcomes. Carbon pricing alone is most effective at achieving decarbonization levels at low clean energy targets, and clean energy credit markets and carbon pricing are substitutionary at high clean energy targets. Restricting technology participation in capacity and operating reserve markets can impact deployment and operations, even for nonrestricted technologies. Adding an inertia product with fast frequency response yields insufficient provision at high clean energy targets, but work is needed to understand frequency requirements and capabilities.

Original languageAmerican English
Article number120952
Number of pages19
JournalApplied Energy
StatePublished - 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 Elsevier Ltd

NREL Publication Number

  • NREL/JA-5C00-80257


  • Capacity expansion modeling
  • Competitive wholesale electricity markets
  • Decarbonization
  • Market design
  • Production cost modeling
  • Renewable energy


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