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Looking for Trouble: Competition Policy in the U.S. Electricity Industry

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  • Bushnell, James

Abstract

In the aftermath of the California energy crisis, there has been a shift in the focus of electricity regulators away from the fostering of a competitive market structure and towards the application of regulations to specific market outcomes. Such a focus stands in marked contrast to the general principles governing competition policies in other industries. This shift is in part influenced by the clear failure of earlier attempts to establish a competitive market structure in California. But was this a failure of the policy, or of the tools that were used to implement it? In this chapter, I describe the tests historically used by regulators as screens for the potential abuse of market power by suppliers. More advanced methods, such as models of oligopoly competition, can potentially provide a much better understanding of the competitive outlook for a market. However, much uncertainty surrounds the development and application of such models. I apply an oligopoly model of the California market to actual market data to test the ability of such models to recreate true market outcomes. I also explore the potential impact of an alternative plan for the divestiture of California's thermal generation units. The results indicate that a more substantial, but still plausible, reduction in supplier concentration would have saved consumers nearly $2 billion during the summer of 2000.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by Iowa State University, Department of Economics in its series Staff General Research Papers with number 13140.

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Date of creation: 01 Jan 2005
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Handle: RePEc:isu:genres:13140

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Postal: Iowa State University, Dept. of Economics, 260 Heady Hall, Ames, IA 50011-1070
Phone: +1 515.294.6741
Fax: +1 515.294.0221
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Web page: http://www.econ.iastate.edu
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Cited by:
  1. Pittman, Russell, 2007. "Restructuring the Russian electricity sector: Re-creating California?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(3), pages 1872-1883, March.
  2. Geoff Bertram & Dan Twaddle, 2005. "Price-Cost Margins and Profit Rates in New Zealand Electricity Distribution Networks Since 1994: the Cost of Light Handed Regulation," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 27(3), pages 281-308, 01.
  3. Bushnell, James, 2007. "Oligopoly Equilibria in Electricity Contract Markets," Staff General Research Papers 13135, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  4. Barquin, J. & Boots,M. G. & Ehrenmann, A. & Hobbs, B.F. & Neuhoff, K. & Rijkers, F. A. M., 2004. "Network-constrained models of liberalized electricity markets: the devil is in the details," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0405, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.

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