Emission trading is an important political instrument to bindingly set limits for particular pollutants. Among other things, it allows the governments to directly influence environmental goals and therefore strengthens the importance of politics as a regulatory force. Since 2005, the emission trading in the EU has committed companies to obtain a certificate for each emitted ton of CO2. In current practice, emitters receive a basic amount of certificates for free. When this amount is depleted, a new certificate must be purchased for each additionally produced ton of carbon dioxide. This trade takes place on the electricity market.
However, the amended bill of the EU envisages a drastic change of the current distribution practice. The conventional, fossil-fuelled power plants will be made discharge their duties even more than they were so far. As of 2013 at the latest, the pollution rights shall no longer be distributed for free but only be sold. This means billions of euros in additional expenses for large energy companies with increased electricity costs as a result. The renewable energies benefit from the new regulations in two ways. On the one hand, the sale of the emission rights enables medium-sized companies which have missed out on the assignment so far to purchase the rights. On the other hand, rising electricity costs accelerate the marketability of the renewable energies and therefore contribute to the increase of their economic efficiency.