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Understanding Competitive Pricing and Market Power in Wholesale Electricity Markets


  • Borenstein, Severin


Discussions of competition in restructured electricity markets have revealed many misunderstandings about the definition, diagnosis, and implications of market power. In this paper, I attempt to clarify the meaning of market power and show how it can be distinguished from competitive pricing in markets with significant short-run supply constraints. I also address two common myths about market power: (a) that it is present in all markets and (b) that it must be present in order for firms to remain profitable in markets with significant fixed costs. I conclude by arguing that, while a finding of market power in an industry does not necessarily indicate that government intervention is warranted, such analysis is an important part of creating sound public policy.

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  • Borenstein, Severin, 1999. "Understanding Competitive Pricing and Market Power in Wholesale Electricity Markets," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt00p2p3wv, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
  • Handle: RePEc:cdl:compol:qt00p2p3wv

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    7. repec:fth:harver:1473 is not listed on IDEAS
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    Cited by:

    1. Macatangay, Rafael Emmanuel A., 2001. "Market definition and dominant position abuse under the new electricity trading arrangements in England and Wales," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 29(5), pages 337-340, April.
    2. Marchenko, O.V., 2007. "Mathematical modelling of electricity market with renewable energy sources," Renewable Energy, Elsevier, vol. 32(6), pages 976-990.
    3. Dormady, Noah C., 2014. "Carbon auctions, energy markets & market power: An experimental analysis," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 44(C), pages 468-482.
    4. repec:mje:mjejnl:v:11:y:2015:i:2:p:125-135 is not listed on IDEAS
    5. Severin Borenstein, 2002. "The Trouble With Electricity Markets: Understanding California's Restructuring Disaster," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 16(1), pages 191-211, Winter.
    6. Rafael Macatangay, 2002. "Tacit Collusion in the Frequently Repeated Multi-Unit Uniform Price Auction for Wholesale Electricity in England and Wales," European Journal of Law and Economics, Springer, vol. 13(3), pages 257-273, May.
    7. Lynne Kiesling & Bart Wilson, 2007. "An experimental analysis of the effects of automated mitigation procedures on investment and prices in wholesale electricity markets," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 31(3), pages 313-334, June.
    8. Perez, Eloy, 2007. "A model of vertical integration and investment in generation capacity in electricity markets: The case of the bidding game," Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, Elsevier, vol. 41(4), pages 272-290, December.
    9. Goto, Mika & Karolyi, G. Andrew, 2004. "Understanding Electricity Price Volatility within and across Markets," Working Paper Series 2004-12, Ohio State University, Charles A. Dice Center for Research in Financial Economics.
    10. Dias, José G. & Ramos, Sofia B., 2014. "Heterogeneous price dynamics in U.S. regional electricity markets," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 46(C), pages 453-463.
    11. Özge .Ic{s}legen & Stefan Reichelstein, 2011. "Carbon Capture by Fossil Fuel Power Plants: An Economic Analysis," Management Science, INFORMS, vol. 57(1), pages 21-39, January.
    12. Fabra, N., 2018. "A Primer on Capacity Mechanisms," Cambridge Working Papers in Economics 1814, Faculty of Economics, University of Cambridge.
    13. Thao Pham, 2015. "Energiewende and competition in Germany: Diagnosing market power in wholesale electricity market," ECONOMICS AND POLICY OF ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT, FrancoAngeli Editore, vol. 2015(2), pages 29-49.
    14. Simona Bigerna, Carlo Andrea Bollino and Paolo Polinori, 2016. "Renewable Energy and Market Power in the Italian Electricity Market," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Bollino-M).
    15. Germeshausen, Robert, 2018. "The European Union emissions trading scheme and fuel efficiency of fossil fuel power plants in Germany," ZEW Discussion Papers 18-007, ZEW - Zentrum für Europäische Wirtschaftsforschung / Center for European Economic Research.
    16. Bunn, Derek W. & Day, Christopher J., 2009. "Computational modelling of price formation in the electricity pool of England and Wales," Journal of Economic Dynamics and Control, Elsevier, vol. 33(2), pages 363-376, February.

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    competition; electricity markets;


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