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Liberalisation and divestiture in the UK energy sector


  • Richard Green
  • Catherine Waddams Price


Over the past 10 years, the government has privatised two energy industries — gas and electricity — and is presently selling British Coal. Vickers and Yarrow (1988) point out that the privatisation of utilities has two components, for the sale of assets to the private sector may be accompanied by changes in industrial structure. It is possible to sell assets without liberalisation, just as it would be possible to liberalise a market without asset transfers.2 The three energy industries were privatised with very different structures and competitive environments. This paper examines the structures chosen in the light of the benefits to government, private producers and consumers, focusing on whether restructuring and liberalisation should occur before or after privatisation. A similar choice exists after flotation between divestiture and restructuring of the industry itself and changing the external competitive or regulatory environment. Within energy, we show that the structure chosen for one industry affects the options available for another, because of the complex interactions within the sector.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard Green & Catherine Waddams Price, 1995. "Liberalisation and divestiture in the UK energy sector," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 16(1), pages 75-89, February.
  • Handle: RePEc:ifs:fistud:v:16:y:1995:i:1:p:75-89

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Dieter Helm & Najma Rajah, 1994. "Water regulation: the periodic review," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 15(2), pages 74-94, May.
    2. Newbery, David M, 1993. "The Impact of EC Environmental Policy on British Coal," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 9(4), pages 66-95, Winter.
    3. Kreps, David M. & Wilson, Robert, 1982. "Reputation and imperfect information," Journal of Economic Theory, Elsevier, vol. 27(2), pages 253-279, August.
    4. Ben Hammond & Dieter Helm & David Thompson, 1985. "British Gas: options for privatisation," Fiscal Studies, Institute for Fiscal Studies, vol. 6(4), pages 1-20, November.
    5. Green, Richard J & Newbery, David M, 1992. "Competition in the British Electricity Spot Market," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 100(5), pages 929-953, October.
    6. Leroy P. Jones & Pankaj Tandon & Ingo Vogelsang, 1990. "Selling Public Enterprises: A Cost/Benefit Methodology," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262600625.
    7. John Vickers & George Yarrow, 1988. "Privatization: An Economic Analysis," MIT Press Books, The MIT Press, edition 1, volume 1, number 0262720116.
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    Cited by:

    1. Giulietti, Monica & Sicca, Renato, 1999. "The liberalisation of the internal market for electricity: what choices for Italy?," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 8(3), pages 173-182, September.
    2. Naughten, Barry, 2003. "Economic assessment of combined cycle gas turbines in Australia: Some effects of microeconomic reform and technological change," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(3), pages 225-245, February.
    3. Dieter B”s, 1996. "Privatization and Restructuring: An Incomplete--Contract Approach," Discussion Paper Serie A 523, University of Bonn, Germany.

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