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Disallowances and overcapitalization in the U.S. electric utility industry


  • Stratford Douglas
  • Thomas A. Garrett
  • Russell M. Rhine


Regulation of an industry often produces unintended consequences. Averch and Johnson (1962) argue that certain regulation of electric utilities provides utilities the incentive to purchase an inefficiently large amount of capital. Another possible and related unintended consequence of electric utility regulation is that regulatory cost disallowances on capital may also increase utilities' incentives to overcapitalize. The authors provide theoretical evidence that capital expenditure disallowances will increase the Averch and Johnson effect in some instances and thus may have contributed to the overcapitalization problem that regulation was designed to discourage. Our model shows that disallowances can reduce the rate of return on investment and thereby increase the Averch and Johnson distortion.

Suggested Citation

  • Stratford Douglas & Thomas A. Garrett & Russell M. Rhine, 2009. "Disallowances and overcapitalization in the U.S. electric utility industry," Review, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis, issue Jan, pages 23-32.
  • Handle: RePEc:fip:fedlrv:y:2009:i:jan:p:23-32:n:v.91no.1

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Thomas P. Lyon, 1991. "Regulation with 20-20 Hindsight: "Heads I Win, Tails You Lose"?," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 22(4), pages 581-595, Winter.
    2. Rungsuriyawiboon, Supawat & Stefanou, Spiro E., 2007. "Dynamic Efficiency Estimation: An Application to U.S. Electric Utilities," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 25, pages 226-238, April.
    3. Carol Propper & John Van Reenen, 2010. "Can Pay Regulation Kill? Panel Data Evidence on the Effect of Labor Markets on Hospital Performance," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 118(2), pages 222-273, April.
    4. Elizabeth Olmstead Teisberg, 1993. "Capital Investment Strategies under Uncertain Regulation," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 24(4), pages 591-604, Winter.
    5. Gal-Or, Esther & Spiro, Michael H, 1992. "Regulatory Regimes in the Electric Power Industry: Implications for Capacity," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 263-278, September.
    6. Jon Nelson, 2003. "Advertising Bans, Monopoly, and Alcohol Demand: Testing for Substitution Effects using State Panel Data," Review of Industrial Organization, Springer;The Industrial Organization Society, vol. 22(1), pages 1-25, February.
    7. Nemoto, Jiro & Nakanishi, Yasuo & Madono, Seishi, 1993. "Scale Economies and Over-capitalization in Japanese Electric Utilities," International Economic Review, Department of Economics, University of Pennsylvania and Osaka University Institute of Social and Economic Research Association, vol. 34(2), pages 431-460, May.
    8. Nelson, Randy A., 1985. "Returns to scale from variable and total cost functions : Evidence from the electric power industry," Economics Letters, Elsevier, vol. 18(2-3), pages 271-276.
    9. Alfred E. Kahn, 1988. "The Economics of Regulation: Principles and Institutions," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262610523, July.
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    Cited by:

    1. repec:eee:eneeco:v:66:y:2017:i:c:p:384-398 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. Russell Rhine, 2001. "Economies of scale and optimal capital in nuclear and fossil fuel electricity production," Atlantic Economic Journal, Springer;International Atlantic Economic Society, vol. 29(2), pages 203-214, June.

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    Electric utilities ; Energy industries;


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