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Powering Progress: Restructuring, Competition, and R&D in the U.S. Electric Utility Industry


  • Paroma Sanyal
  • Linda R. Cohen


This paper investigates the R&D behavior of regulated firms when they transition to a competitive environment. Using data from the US electricity market from 1990-2000, we analyze how competition, institutional changes, and political constraints have contributed to the precipitous decline in R&D expenditure by regulated utilities. We find that firms reduce their R&D significantly at the very early stages of restructuring or even when they expect restructuring to occur. Once the emerging institutional structure becomes clear, R&D spending recovers but is later offset by another decline when restructuring legislation is enacted. In addition, greater competition and the nearing of such competition adversely affects research spending. In aggregate, R&D declines by 78.6 percent after electricity markets are restructured. Firm and state characteristics matter, and a majority of the research is conducted by large generation companies located in pro-research states, especially if they are part of a larger holding company. Such characteristics have a different impact on research spending in the pre-and post-restructured periods.

Suggested Citation

  • Paroma Sanyal & Linda R. Cohen, 2009. "Powering Progress: Restructuring, Competition, and R&D in the U.S. Electric Utility Industry," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2), pages 41-80.
  • Handle: RePEc:aen:journl:2009v30-02-a03

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    Cited by:

    1. Nesta, Lionel & Vona, Francesco & Nicolli, Francesco, 2014. "Environmental policies, competition and innovation in renewable energy," Journal of Environmental Economics and Management, Elsevier, vol. 67(3), pages 396-411.
    2. Amable, Bruno & Ledezma, Ivan & Robin, Stéphane, 2016. "Product market regulation, innovation, and productivity," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(10), pages 2087-2104.
    3. Ohler, Adrienne M., 2014. "Behavior of the firm under rate-of-return regulation with two capital inputs," The Quarterly Review of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 54(1), pages 61-69.
    4. Kim, Jihwan & Kim, Yeonbae & Flacher, David, 2012. "R&D investment of electricity-generating firms following industry restructuring," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 103-117.
    5. Jamasb, Tooraj & Pollitt, Michael G., 2015. "Why and how to subsidise energy R+D: Lessons from the collapse and recovery of electricity innovation in the UK," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 83(C), pages 197-205.
    6. Costa-Campi, M.T. & Duch-Brown, N. & García-Quevedo, J., 2014. "R&D drivers and obstacles to innovation in the energy industry," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 20-30.
    7. Anupama Sen and Tooraj Jamasb, 2012. "Diversity in Unity: An Empirical Analysis of Electricity Deregulation in Indian States," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1).
    8. repec:eee:enepol:v:111:y:2017:i:c:p:403-413 is not listed on IDEAS
    9. Maria Teresa Costa-Campi & Néstor Duch-Brown & José García-Quevedo, 2016. "Innovation strategies of energy firms," Working Papers 2016/28, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).
    10. repec:gam:jsusta:v:9:y:2017:i:4:p:617-:d:95887 is not listed on IDEAS
    11. Grafström, Jonas & Söderholm, Patrik & Gawel, Erik & Lehmann, Paul & Strunz, Sebastian, 2017. "Knowledge accumulation from public renewable energy R&D in the European Union: Converging or diverging trends?," UFZ Discussion Papers 5/2017, Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research (UFZ), Division of Social Sciences (ÖKUS).
    12. repec:eee:enepol:v:106:y:2017:i:c:p:233-243 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Sterlacchini, Alessandro, 2012. "Energy R&D in private and state-owned utilities: An analysis of the major world electric companies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 494-506.

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    JEL classification:

    • F0 - International Economics - - General


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