Do manufacturing firms react to energy prices? Evidence from Italy
The reaction of energy demand to price changes is a key policy issue as it describes the economy's response to changes in market conditions or to policy interventions. The issue is even more important for the Italian economy, highly exposed to energy price changes, given its almost complete fossil fuel-related energy dependence, environmental sensitivity and highly fragmented industrial structure. Besides the policy issue, there is also an important methodological debate, concerning the best way to evaluate energy demand elasticities, looking at alternative models, data and elasticity definitions. After a discussion of the main methodological issues and the related empirical literature, this paper presents an estimation of factor and fuel demand elasticities for Italian industrial firms, by using a microeconomic panel in a two-stage translog model. Using cross-price and Morishima elasticities, we obtain information on the magnitude and asymmetry of firms' responses to price changes. Moreover, the use of a micro-dataset allows the high heterogeneity of Italian firms to be considered: the results are discussed according to technology intensity, sector and firm size. Our findings show that energy is the most elastic input for all sectors and that capital and energy are substitutes in the low technology sector and weak complements in all others. Estimated interfuel elasticities show a high degree of demand sensitivity to fuel price changes and the vast majority of cross-price elasticities exhibit substitutability. Appropriate fiscal policies can thus be identified to give an effective impulse in influencing the industrial energy mix by changing relative prices. These findings constitute an important foundation for analysing energy demand by Italian industrial firms, given that empirical literature is particularly rare on the Italian case study.
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