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Investment Incentives and Market Power: An Experimental Analysis


  • Dean V. Williamson

    (Economic Analysis Group, Antitrust Division, Department of Justice)

  • Céline Jullien

    (Université de Grenoble)

  • Lynne Kiesling

    (International Foundation for Research in Experimental Economics (IFREE) and Department of Economics, Northwestern University)

  • Carine Staropoli

    (Université Panthéon-Sorbonne)


We examine investment incentives and market power in an experimental market. We characterize market power as the strategic interdependence of subjects' investment decisions and output decisions. The market is designed so that investment and output decisions can be jointly characterized as strategies within a game. A Nash-Cournot equilibrium of the game provides a way of characterizing how investment incentives and market power interact. Subjects could invest in two different production technologies and could produce output to serve as many as two different demand conditions. The technologies were analogous to "baseload" capacity and "peaking" capacity in wholesale electricity markets. The Nash-Cournot benchmark constituted a good indicator of subjects' output decisions in that output cycled around the Cournot benchmark. Thus, on average, consumers extracted the surplus available to them in the equilibrium. While we do not observe Edgeworth Cycles in prices or outputs, we do see them in the producer surplus series. Producers dissipated some of the surplus they could have extracted in the equilibrium by overinvesting in peaking capacity and underinvesting in baseload capacity. Inefficient investment diminished total system efficiency, but producers' investments in total production capacity tracked the Nash-Cournot benchmark. In contrast, monopoly explanations such as collusion do not characterize the data.

Suggested Citation

  • Dean V. Williamson & Céline Jullien & Lynne Kiesling & Carine Staropoli, 2006. "Investment Incentives and Market Power: An Experimental Analysis," EAG Discussions Papers 200605, Department of Justice, Antitrust Division.
  • Handle: RePEc:doj:eagpap:200605

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    Cited by:

    1. 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.
    2. Bastian Henze & Charles Noussair & Bert Willems, 2012. "Regulation of network infrastructure investments: an experimental evaluation," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 42(1), pages 1-38, August.

    More about this item


    capacity investment; Cournot; supply function equilibrium; Edgeworth Cycles; market power; electricity markets; investment incentives;

    JEL classification:

    • C92 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Design of Experiments - - - Laboratory, Group Behavior
    • D43 - Microeconomics - - Market Structure, Pricing, and Design - - - Oligopoly and Other Forms of Market Imperfection
    • C72 - Mathematical and Quantitative Methods - - Game Theory and Bargaining Theory - - - Noncooperative Games


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