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California's Electricity Crisis

  • Paul L. Joskow

The paper examines the economic and regulatory factors that led to an explosion in wholesale power prices, supply shortages, and utility insolvencies in California's electricity sector from May 2000 to June 2001. The structure of California's restructured electricity sector and its early performance are discussed. The effects on wholesale market prices of rising natural gas prices, increasing demand, reduced power imports, rising pollution credit prices, and market power, beginning in the summer of 2000, are analysed, The regulatory responses leading to utility credit problems and supply shortages are identified. The effects of falling natural gas prices, reduced demand, state power-procurement initiatives, and price-mitigation programmes on prices beginning in June 2001 are discussed. A set of lessons learned from the California experience concludes the paper. Copyright 2001, Oxford University Press.

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Article provided by Oxford University Press in its journal Oxford Review of Economic Policy.

Volume (Year): 17 (2001)
Issue (Month): 3 ()
Pages: 365-388

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Handle: RePEc:oup:oxford:v:17:y:2001:i:3:p:365-388
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  1. Borenstein, Severin & Bushnell, James & Kahn, Edward & Stoft, Steven, 1995. "Market power in California electricity markets," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 5(3-4), pages 219-236.
  2. Newbery, David M & Pollitt, Michael G, 1997. "The Restructuring and Privatization of Britain's CEGB--Was It Worth It?," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 45(3), pages 269-303, September.
  3. William W. Hogan, 1993. "Markets in Real Electric Networks Require Reactive Prices," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 171-200.
  4. Joskow, P.L., 1989. "Regulatory Failure, Regulatory Reform And Structural Change In The Electric Power Industry," Working papers 516, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), Department of Economics.
  5. Catherine D. Wolfram, 1999. "Measuring Duopoly Power in the British Electricity Spot Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 89(4), pages 805-826, September.
  6. Paul L. Joskow, 1997. "Restructuring, Competition and Regulatory Reform in the U.S. Electricity Sector," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 119-138, Summer.
  7. Borenstein, Severin & Bushnell, James & Wolak, Frank, 1999. "Diagnosing Market Power in California's Deregulated Wholesale Electricity Market," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt3rx965d5, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  8. Hogan, William W, 1992. "Contract Networks for Electric Power Transmission," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 4(3), pages 211-42, September.
  9. Joskow, Paul L, 1996. "Introducing Competition into Regulated Network Industries: From Hierarchies to Markets in Electricity," Industrial and Corporate Change, Oxford University Press, vol. 5(2), pages 341-82.
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