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The Visible Hand: Ensuring Optimal Investment in Electric Power Generation

  • Léautier, Thomas-Olivier

This article formally analyzes the various corrective mechanisms that have been proposed and implemented to alleviate underinvestment in electric power generation. It yields three main analytical findings. First, physical capacity certificates markets implemented in the United States restore optimal investment if and only if they are supplemented with a "no short sale" condition, i.e., producers can not sell more certificates than they have installed capacity. Then, they raise producers’ profits beyond the imperfect competition level. Second, financial reliability options, proposed in many markets, are effective at curbing market power, although they fail to fully restore investment incentives. If "no short sale" conditions are added, both physical capacity certificates and financial reliability options are equivalent. Finally, a single market for energy and operating reserves subject to a price cap is isomorphic to a simple energy market. Standard peak-load pricing analysis applies: under-investment occurs, unless production is perfectly competitive and the cap is never binding. This analysis highlight the limitations of the corrective mechanisms. This suggest that policy makers should first and foremost control and reduce the exercise of market power, then use these mechanisms as interim remedial measures.

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Paper provided by Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse in its series IDEI Working Papers with number 605.

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Date of creation: Sep 2011
Date of revision: Mar 2013
Publication status: Published in The Energy Journal, 2015.
Handle: RePEc:ide:wpaper:22628
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  1. Léautier, Thomas-Olivier, 2012. "Is mandating "smart meters" smart?," TSE Working Papers 12-341, Toulouse School of Economics (TSE).
  2. Finon, Dominique & Pignon, Virginie, 2008. "Capacity mechanisms in imperfect electricity markets," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 141-142, September.
  3. Severin Borenstein & Stephen Holland, 2005. "On the Efficiency of Competitive Electricity Markets with Time-Invariant Retail Prices," RAND Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 36(3), pages 469-493, Autumn.
  4. Boom, Anette, 2009. "Vertically integrated firms' investments in electricity generating capacities," International Journal of Industrial Organization, Elsevier, vol. 27(4), pages 544-551, July.
  5. Cramton, Peter & Stoft, Steven, 2008. "Forward reliability markets: Less risk, less market power, more efficiency," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(3), pages 194-201, September.
  6. Severin Borenstein, 2005. "The Long-Run Efficiency of Real-Time Electricity Pricing," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3), pages 93-116.
  7. Michael A. Crew & Paul R. Kleindorfer, 1976. "Peak Load Pricing with a Diverse Technology," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 7(1), pages 207-231, Spring.
  8. Joskow, Paul & Tirole, Jean, 2004. "Reliability and Competitive Electricity Markets," IDEI Working Papers 310, Institut d'Économie Industrielle (IDEI), Toulouse.
  9. Chao, Hung-po & Wilson, Robert, 1987. "Priority Service: Pricing, Investment, and Market Organization," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 77(5), pages 899-916, December.
  10. Natalia Fabra & Nils‐Henrik M von der Fehr & María‐Ángeles de Frutos, 2011. "Market Design and Investment Incentives," Economic Journal, Royal Economic Society, vol. 121(557), pages 1340-1360, December.
  11. Lijesen, Mark G., 2007. "The real-time price elasticity of electricity," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 29(2), pages 249-258, March.
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