Divorce comes at a price: An ex ante welfare analysis of ownership unbundling of the distribution and commercial companies in the Dutch energy sector
Vertical unbundling in the electricity sector is a hot political topic in the European Union. The European Commission has decided that the ownership unbundling of transmission networks from other stages in the value chain is the most effective way to ensure fair network access and infrastructure investment. While this European unbundling debate has not ended yet and most countries still do not have an independent transmission system operator (TSO), the Dutch government has already taken one step further. In 2008, it decided that distribution companies should be completely separated from commercial activities that are part of the same holding (generation, trade and supply). This governmental decision has been fiercely debated. Although the goal is to improve competition as well as security of supply, these benefits are uncertain. Nevertheless, it is certain that ownership unbundling comes at a cost. In this paper we present an ex ante cost-benefit analysis of the Dutch unbundling act. We conclude that it is unlikely that this act is welfare enhancing: divorce comes at a price.
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