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The Redistributional Impact of Nonlinear Electricity Pricing

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  • Severin Borenstein

Abstract

Electricity regulators often mandate increasing-block pricing (IBP)—i.e., marginal price increases with the customer's average daily usage—to protect low-income households from rising costs. IBP has no cost basis, raising a classic conflict between efficiency and distributional goals. Combining household-level utility billing data with census data on income, I find that IBP in California results in modest wealth redistribution, but creates substantial deadweight loss relative to the transfers. I also show that a common approach to studying income distribution effects by using median household income within census block groups may be misleading. (JEL D31, L11, L51, L94, L98, Q41, Q48)

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Bibliographic Info

Article provided by American Economic Association in its journal American Economic Journal: Economic Policy.

Volume (Year): 4 (2012)
Issue (Month): 3 (August)
Pages: 56-90

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Handle: RePEc:aea:aejpol:v:4:y:2012:i:3:p:56-90

Note: DOI: 10.1257/pol.4.3.56
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  2. Snow, Arthur & Warren, Ronald Jr., 1996. "The marginal welfare cost of public funds: Theory and estimates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 289-305, August.
  3. Koichiro Ito, 2012. "Do Consumers Respond to Marginal or Average Price? Evidence from Nonlinear Electricity Pricing," NBER Working Papers 18533, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  7. Baum-Snow, Nathaniel & Marion, Justin, 2009. "The effects of low income housing tax credit developments on neighborhoods," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 93(5-6), pages 654-666, June.
  8. Emmanuel Saez, 1999. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," NBER Working Papers 7366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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  10. Kamerschen, David R. & Porter, David V., 2004. "The demand for residential, industrial and total electricity, 1973-1998," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 26(1), pages 87-100, January.
  11. Frank A. Scott, Jr., 1981. "Estimating Recipient Benefits and Waste from Lifeline Electricity Rates," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 57(4), pages 536-543.
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Cited by:
  1. Severin Borenstein & Lucas W. Davis, 2010. "The Equity and Efficiency of Two-Part Tariffs in U.S. Natural Gas Markets," NBER Working Papers 16653, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  2. S. Borenstein, 2013. "Effective and Equitable Adoption of Opt-In Residential Dynamic Electricity Pricing," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer, vol. 42(2), pages 127-160, March.
  3. Eugenio J. Miravete & Katja Seim & Jeff Thurk, 2014. "Complexity, Efficiency, and Fairness of Multi-Product Monopoly Pricing," CESifo Working Paper Series 4692, CESifo Group Munich.
  4. Farrell, Niall & Lyons, Seán, 2014. "The distributional impact of the Irish public service obligation levy on electricity consumption," MPRA Paper 53488, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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