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Will You Be There for Me the Whole Time?

On the importance of obligation periods in design of capacity markets

By Sylwia Bialek and Burcin Unel
February 7, 2019

Filed under Electricity, Academic Articles/Working Papers, Jobs and Regulation

This paper discusses how variations in the availability of various resources (generation seasonality) and the fluctuations in the electricity usage (load seasonality) relate to efficient capacity market design. Even though capacity markets have been around for two decades, the necessity as well as the design of these markets are subjects of ongoing debates. Many design questions, such as how to determine the amount of capacity to be procured, how to prevent market power, or how to provide incentives for performance dominate both the academic literature and the policymaking discussions. Another design aspect that plays a crucial role for market participants is the length of the capacity product procured (“obligation period”), because it defines the length of time for which a seller commits to maintaining its capacity available. However, a thorough analysis of obligation periods has been overlooked by literature and policymaking discussions. Our article works to provide this analysis.