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A Quantitative Analysis of Pricing Behavior In California’s Wholesale Electricity Market During Summer 2000


  • Joskow, P.
  • Edward Kahn


During the Summer of 2000, wholesale electricity prices in California were nearly 500% higher than they were during the same months in 1998 or 1999. This price explosion was unexpected and has called into question whether electricity restructuring will bring the benefits of competition promised to consumers. The purpose of this paper is to examine the factors that explain this increase in wholesale electricity prices. We simulate competitive benchmark prices for Summer of 2000 taking account of all relevant supply and demand factors --- gas prices, demand, imports from other states, and emission permit prices. We then compare the simulated competitive benchmark prices with the actual prices observed. We find that there is a large gap between our benchmark competitive prices and observed prices, suggesting that the prices observed during summer 2000 reflect, in part, the exercise of market power by suppliers. We then proceed to examine supplier behavior during high-price hours. We find evidence that suppliers withheld supply from the market that would have been profitable for price-taking firms to sell at the market price.

Suggested Citation

  • Joskow, P. & Edward Kahn, 2002. "A Quantitative Analysis of Pricing Behavior In California’s Wholesale Electricity Market During Summer 2000," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 0211, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
  • Handle: RePEc:cam:camdae:0211
    Note: CMI IO

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    References listed on IDEAS

    1. Severin Borenstein & James Bushnell & Frank Wolak, 2000. "Diagnosing Market Power in California's Restructured Wholesale Electricity Market," NBER Working Papers 7868, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
    2. Ellerman,A. Denny & Joskow,Paul L. & Schmalensee,Richard & Montero,Juan-Pablo & Bailey,Elizabeth M., 2005. "Markets for Clean Air," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521023894, March.
      • Ellerman,A. Denny & Joskow,Paul L. & Schmalensee,Richard & Montero,Juan-Pablo & Bailey,Elizabeth M., 2000. "Markets for Clean Air," Cambridge Books, Cambridge University Press, number 9780521660839, March.
    3. Bushnell, James & Wolfram, Catherine, 2008. "Electricity Markets," Staff General Research Papers Archive 31547, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
    4. Borenstein, Severin & Bushnell, James, 1999. "An Empirical Analysis of the Potential for Market Power in California's Electricity Industry," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 47(3), pages 285-323, September.
    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. Matthew E. Kahn & Siqi Zheng, 2016. "Introduction," Introductory Chapters,in: Blue Skies over Beijing:Economic Growth and the Environment in China Princeton University Press.
    7. 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.
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    More about this item


    electricity; market power; deregulation;

    JEL classification:

    • L13 - Industrial Organization - - Market Structure, Firm Strategy, and Market Performance - - - Oligopoly and Other Imperfect Markets
    • L43 - Industrial Organization - - Antitrust Issues and Policies - - - Legal Monopolies and Regulation or Deregulation
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities

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