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Estimating the marginal cost of quality improvements: The case of the UK electricity distribution companies


  • Jamasb, Tooraj
  • Orea, Luis
  • Pollitt, Michael


The main aim of this paper is to develop an econometric approach to the estimation of marginal costs of improving quality of service. Estimating marginal costs of quality can help energy regulators to design more effective incentive mechanisms for network utilities to achieve optimal quality levels and reduce welfare losses due to sub-optimal quality. We implement this methodology by way of applying it to the case of the UK electricity distribution networks. The proposed method allows us to measure the welfare effect of the observed quality improvements in the UK between 1995 and 2003. Our results suggest that the regulatory incentives to reduce service interruptions have not been strong enough to achieve economically efficient levels of service quality. We, find that the incentives to encourage utilities to reduce network energy losses have led to to performance improvement. We estimate that the observed improvements in quality during the period of the study only represented about 20% of the potential customer welfare gains, hence leaving considerable scope for further economically efficient improvements in service quality.

Suggested Citation

  • Jamasb, Tooraj & Orea, Luis & Pollitt, Michael, 2012. "Estimating the marginal cost of quality improvements: The case of the UK electricity distribution companies," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 34(5), pages 1498-1506.
  • Handle: RePEc:eee:eneeco:v:34:y:2012:i:5:p:1498-1506 DOI: 10.1016/j.eneco.2012.06.022

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    4. Yu, William & Jamasb, Tooraj & Pollitt, Michael, 2009. "Does weather explain cost and quality performance? An analysis of UK electricity distribution companies," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(11), pages 4177-4188, November.
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    6. Giannakis, Dimitrios & Jamasb, Tooraj & Pollitt, Michael, 2005. "Benchmarking and incentive regulation of quality of service: an application to the UK electricity distribution networks," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 33(17), pages 2256-2271, November.
    7. Jamasb, Tooraj & Pollitt, Michael, 2007. "Incentive regulation of electricity distribution networks: Lessons of experience from Britain," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 6163-6187, December.
    8. A. Yatchew, 2000. "Scale economies in electricity distribution: a semiparametric analysis," Journal of Applied Econometrics, John Wiley & Sons, Ltd., vol. 15(2), pages 187-210.
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    Cited by:

    1. Laura-Lucia Richter & Melvyn Weeks, 2016. "Flexible Mixed Logit with Posterior Analysis: Exploring Willingness-to-Pay for Grid Resilience," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1631, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    2. Rahmatallah Poudineh and Tooraj Jamasb, 2015. "A New Perspective: Investment and Efficiency under Incentive Regulation," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4).
    3. Nepal, Rabindra & Jamasb, Tooraj, 2015. "Incentive regulation and utility benchmarking for electricity network security," Economic Analysis and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 48(C), pages 117-127.
    4. Zakaria, Muhammad & Noureen, Rabia, 2016. "Benchmarking and regulation of power distribution companies in Pakistan," Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Elsevier, vol. 58(C), pages 1095-1099.
    5. Corton, Maria Luisa & Zimmermann, Aneliese & Phillips, Michelle Andrea, 2016. "The low cost of quality improvements in the electricity distribution sector of Brazil," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 97(C), pages 485-493.
    6. Galán, Jorge E. & Pollitt, Michael G., 2014. "Inefficiency persistence and heterogeneity in Colombian electricity utilities," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 31-44.
    7. Bigerna, Simona & Bollino, Carlo Andrea & Micheli, Silvia, 2016. "Renewable energy scenarios for costs reductions in the European Union," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 96(PA), pages 80-90.
    8. Llorca, Manuel & Orea, Luis & Pollitt, Michael G., 2016. "Efficiency and environmental factors in the US electricity transmission industry," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 55(C), pages 234-246.
    9. Carlo Cambini & Elena Fumagalli & Laura Rondi, 2016. "Incentives to quality and investment: evidence from electricity distribution in Italy," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 49(1), pages 1-32, February.
    10. Cambini, Carlo & Croce, Annalisa & Fumagalli, Elena, 2014. "Output-based incentive regulation in electricity distribution: Evidence from Italy," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 45(C), pages 205-216.
    11. Llorca, Manuel & Orea, Luis & Pollitt, Michael G., 2014. "Using the latent class approach to cluster firms in benchmarking: An application to the US electricity transmission industry," Operations Research Perspectives, Elsevier, vol. 1(1), pages 6-17.
    12. repec:eee:ejores:v:262:y:2017:i:1:p:347-360 is not listed on IDEAS
    13. Darius Corbier & Frédéric Gonand & Marie Bessec, 2015. "Impacts of decentralised power generation on distribution networks: a statistical typology of European countries," Working Papers 1509, Chaire Economie du climat.
    14. Massimo Filippini & Luis Orea, 2014. "Applications of the stochastic frontier approach in Energy Economics," Economics and Business Letters, Oviedo University Press, vol. 3(1), pages 35-42.
    15. repec:eee:ejores:v:263:y:2017:i:3:p:1078-1094 is not listed on IDEAS
    16. Moutinho, Victor & Moreira, António C. & Mota, Jorge, 2014. "Do regulatory mechanisms promote competition and mitigate market power? Evidence from Spanish electricity market," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 403-412.
    17. Poudineh, Rahmatallah & Jamasb, Tooraj, 2016. "Determinants of investment under incentive regulation: The case of the Norwegian electricity distribution networks," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 193-202.
    18. Jorge E. Galán & Michael G. Pollitt, 2014. "Inefficiency persistence and heterogeneity in Colombian electricity distribution utilities," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1423, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    19. Jamasb, T. & Nepal, R., 2012. "Security of the European Electricity Systems: Conceptualizing the Assessment Criteria and Core Indicators," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1251, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    20. Saastamoinen, Antti & Kuosmanen, Timo, 2016. "Quality frontier of electricity distribution: Supply security, best practices, and underground cabling in Finland," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 53(C), pages 281-292.
    21. Maria Teresa Costa-Campi & Daniel Daví-Arderius & Elisa Trujillo-Baute, 2016. "The economic impact of electricity losses," Working Papers 2016/4, Institut d'Economia de Barcelona (IEB).

    More about this item


    Electricity distribution cost; Marginal cost; Quality service; Social welfare;

    JEL classification:

    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities


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