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Energy, the State, and the Market: British Energy Policy since 1979

Author

Listed:
  • Helm, Dieter

    (New College, Oxford)

Abstract

The transformation of Britain's energy policy in the last two decades has been more radical than any such change in developed economies. Since 1979 the great state energy monopolies created after the Second World War have been privatised and made subject to competition. Images of Arthur Scargill and the miners' strike of the 1980s remain vivid, but what effect has the new market philosophy had on Britain's energy industries? Since 1979 the National Coal Board, British Gas and the Central Electricity Generating Board have all been broken up. Energy trading, electricity pools, auctions and futures markets first developed, but they failed to solve the old energy policy problems of security of supply and network integrity, and the new ones of the environment and reliance on gas. The government introduced a new regulatory regime as a temporary necessity but regulation did not wither away, rather it grew to be more pervasive. Changing the ownership of the industries did not reduce the government's involvement, it simply changed its form. The 1980s and 1990s were years of energy surpluses and low fossil-fuel prices. There was little need to invest, and much of the investment in the so-called dash for gas was artificially stimulated. The new owners sweated the assets, and engaged in major financial engineering. Takeovers consolidated the industry into a smaller number of dominant firms. As investment priorities became more urgent, with the environmental pressures of climate change and the gradual switch to imported gas, the market philosophy was found wanting. Energy policy could not rely solely on the market. And it is the government which finds itself responsible for resolving the core issues of energy policy. Helm's book tells this story. It is a major study of the new market approach to energy policy in Britain since 1979. It describes the miners' strike, the privatisations of the gas, electricity, nuclear generation, and coal industries, and looks at events such as the dash for gas, regulatory failures in setting monopoly prices, and the takeovers and the consolidations of the late 1990s. Helm sets out the achievements of the new market philosophy, but also analyses why it has ultimately failed to turn energy industries into normal commodity businesses.

Suggested Citation

  • Helm, Dieter, 2003. "Energy, the State, and the Market: British Energy Policy since 1979," OUP Catalogue, Oxford University Press, number 9780199262038.
  • Handle: RePEc:oxp:obooks:9780199262038
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    Cited by:

    1. Owen, Gill, 2006. "Sustainable development duties: New roles for UK economic regulators," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 208-217, September.
    2. Gracceva, Francesco & Zeniewski, Peter, 2014. "A systemic approach to assessing energy security in a low-carbon EU energy system," Applied Energy, Elsevier, vol. 123(C), pages 335-348.
    3. Haar, Laura N. & Haar, Lawrence, 2006. "Policy-making under uncertainty: Commentary upon the European Union Emissions Trading Scheme," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 34(17), pages 2615-2629, November.
    4. Rosenow, Jan, 2012. "Energy savings obligations in the UK—A history of change," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 49(C), pages 373-382.
    5. Defeuilley, Christophe, 2009. "Retail competition in electricity markets," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(2), pages 377-386, February.
    6. Niamh McCarthy, 2005. "Market Size, Market Structure & Market Power in the Irish Electricity Industry," Papers WP168, Economic and Social Research Institute (ESRI).
    7. Stenzel, Till & Frenzel, Alexander, 2008. "Regulating technological change--The strategic reactions of utility companies towards subsidy policies in the German, Spanish and UK electricity markets," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 2645-2657, July.
    8. Jamasb, Tooraj & Pollitt, Michael, 2007. "Incentive regulation of electricity distribution networks: Lessons of experience from Britain," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(12), pages 6163-6187, December.
    9. Winskel, Mark & Radcliffe, Jonathan & Skea, Jim & Wang, Xinxin, 2014. "Remaking the UK's energy technology innovation system: From the margins to the mainstream," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 68(C), pages 591-602.
    10. Trutnevyte, Evelina & Strachan, Neil & Dodds, Paul E. & Pudjianto, Danny & Strbac, Goran, 2015. "Synergies and trade-offs between governance and costs in electricity system transition," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 85(C), pages 170-181.
    11. Bolton, Ronan & Hannon, Matthew, 2016. "Governing sustainability transitions through business model innovation: Towards a systems understanding," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 45(9), pages 1731-1742.
    12. Keay, Malcolm, 2016. "UK energy policy – Stuck in ideological limbo?," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 94(C), pages 247-252.
    13. Boroumand, Raphaël Homayoun, 2015. "Electricity markets and oligopolistic behaviors: The impact of a multimarket structure," Research in International Business and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 33(C), pages 319-333.
    14. Colin Robinson, 2013. "The Return Of Centralised Energy Planning," Economic Affairs, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 33(3), pages 312-326, October.
    15. David Maddison, 2007. "Modelling sulphur emissions in Europe: a spatial econometric approach," Oxford Economic Papers, Oxford University Press, vol. 59(4), pages 726-743, October.

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