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A Quantitative Analysis of Pricing Behavior in California's Wholesale Electricity Market During Summer 2000

  • Paul L. Joskow
  • Edward Kohn

During the Summer of 2000, wholesale electricity prices in California were nearly 500% higher than they were during the same months in 1998 or 1999. This price explosion was unexpected and has called into question whether electricity restructuring will bring the benefits of competition promised to consumers. The purpose of this paper is to examine the factors that explain this increase in wholesale electricity prices. We simulate competitive benchmark prices for Summer of 2000 taking account of all relevant supply and demand factors-gas prices, demand, imports from other states, and emission permit prices. We then compare the simulated competitive benchmark prices with the actual prices observed. We find that there is a large gap between our benchmark competitive prices and observed prices, suggesting that the prices observed during Summer 2000 reflect, in part, the exercise of market power by suppliers. We then proceed to examine supplier behavior during high price hours. We find evidence that suppliers withheld supply from the market that would have been profitable for price-taking firms to sell at the market price.

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Article provided by International Association for Energy Economics in its journal The Energy Journal.

Volume (Year): Volume23 (2002)
Issue (Month): Number 4 ()
Pages: 1-35

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Handle: RePEc:aen:journl:2002v23-04-a01
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  1. Borenstein, Severin & Bushnell, James, 1999. "An Empirical Analysis of the Potential for Market Power in California's Electricity Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 285-323, September.
  2. Ellerman,A. Denny & Joskow,Paul L. & Schmalensee,Richard & Montero,Juan-Pablo & Bailey,Elizabeth M., 2000. "Markets for Clean Air," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521660839, October.
    • Ellerman,A. Denny & Joskow,Paul L. & Schmalensee,Richard & Montero,Juan-Pablo & Bailey,Elizabeth M., 2005. "Markets for Clean Air," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521023894, October.
  3. Bushnell, James & Wolfram, Catherine, 2008. "Electricity Markets," Staff General Research Papers 31547, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  4. Catherine D. Wolfram, 1999. "Measuring Duopoly Power in the British Electricity Spot Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 805-826, September.
  5. Joskow, P.L., 1989. "Regulatory Failure, Regulatory Reform And Structural Change In The Electric Power Industry," Working papers 516, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  6. Severin Borenstein & James Bushnell & Frank Wolak, 2000. "Diagnosing Market Power in California's Restructured Wholesale Electricity Market," NBER Working Papers 7868, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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