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Power to the People: Does Ownership Type Influence Electricity Service?

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  • Richard T. Boylan

Abstract

After storm-related power outages, many have recommended municipalizing investor-owned utilities, claiming that profit-making utilities have insufficient incentive to prepare for storms. I provide empirical evidence that municipal utilities spend more on maintenance of their distribution network than investor-owned utilities. Nonetheless, I find that storms significantly disrupt electricity consumption in areas served by municipal utilities but do not disrupt areas served by investor-owned utilities. These results are based on a stratified random sample of 241 investor-owned, 96 cooperative, and 94 municipal utilities in the United States between 1999 and 2012. I conclude that municipal utilities' in-efficiencies are more important in causing power outages than investor-owned utilities' disincentives to spend on maintenance.

Suggested Citation

  • Richard T. Boylan, 2016. "Power to the People: Does Ownership Type Influence Electricity Service?," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 59(2), pages 441-476.
  • Handle: RePEc:ucp:jlawec:doi:10.1086/687755
    DOI: 10.1086/687755
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Christian Growitsch & Tooraj Jamasb & Michael Pollitt, 2009. "Quality of service, efficiency and scale in network industries: an analysis of European electricity distribution," Applied Economics, Taylor & Francis Journals, vol. 41(20), pages 2555-2570.
    2. Peltzman, Sam, 1971. "Pricing in Public and Private Enterprises: Electric Utilities in the United States," Journal of Law and Economics, University of Chicago Press, vol. 14(1), pages 109-147, April.
    3. Peter Hartley, 1999. "Reform of the Electricity Supply Industry," Economía Mexicana NUEVA ÉPOCA, , vol. 0(1), pages 45-90, January-J.
    4. Catherine Hausman, 2014. "Corporate Incentives and Nuclear Safety," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 178-206, August.
    5. Oliver Hart & Andrei Shleifer & Robert W. Vishny, 1997. "The Proper Scope of Government: Theory and an Application to Prisons," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 112(4), pages 1127-1161.
    6. Ariel R. Belasen & Solomon W. Polachek, 2009. "How Disasters Affect Local Labor Markets: The Effects of Hurricanes in Florida," Journal of Human Resources, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 44(1).
    7. repec:hrv:faseco:30727607 is not listed on IDEAS
    8. Fumagalli, Elena & Garrone, Paola & Grilli, Luca, 2007. "Service quality in the electricity industry: The role of privatization and managerial behavior," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 6212-6224, December.
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    Cited by:

    1. Astrid Cullmann & Maria Nieswand & Julia Rechlitz, 2017. "Productive Efficiency and Ownership When Market Restructuring Affects Production Technologies," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1641, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    2. Richard Meade & Magnus Soderberg, 2017. "Welfare-Maximising Investors? – Utility Firm Performance with Heterogeneous Quality Preferences and Endogenous Ownership," Working Papers 2017-09, Auckland University of Technology, Department of Economics.
    3. Englmaier, Florian & Roider, Andreas & Stowasser, Till & Hinreiner, Lisa, 2017. "Power Politics: Electoral Cycles in German Electricity Prices," Annual Conference 2017 (Vienna): Alternative Structures for Money and Banking 168267, Verein für Socialpolitik / German Economic Association.

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