Origins and efficiency of the electric industry regulation in Spain, 1910-1936
The aim of this paper is to discover the origins of utility regulation in Spain, and to analyse, from a microeconomic perspective, its characteristics and the impact of regulation on consumers and utilities. Madrid and the Madrilenian utilities are taken as a case study. The electric industry in the period studied was a natural monopoly2. Each of the three phases of production, generation, transmission and distribution, had natural monopoly characteristics. Therefore, the most efficient form to generate, transmit and distribute electricity was the monopoly because one firm can produce a quantity at a lower cost than the sum of costs incurred by two or more firms. A problem arises because when a firm is the single provider it can charge prices above the marginal cost, at monopoly prices. When a monopolist reduces the quantity produced, price increases, causing the consumer to demand less than the economic efficiency level, incurring a loss of consumer surplus. The loss of the consumer surplus is not completely gained by the monopolist, causing a loss of social surplus, a deadweight loss. The main objective of regulation is going to be to reduce to a minimum the deadweight loss. Regulation is also needed because when the monopolist fixes prices at marginal cost equal marginal revenue there would be an incentive for firms to enter the market creating inefficiency. The Madrilenian industry has been chosen because of the availability of statistical information on costs and production. The complex industry structure and the atomised demand add interest to the analysis. This study will also provide some light on the tariff regulation of the period which has been poorly studied and will complement the literature on the US electric utilities regulation where a different type of regulation was implemented.
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