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Understanding Strategic Bidding in Restructured Electricity Markets: A Case Study of ERCOT

  • Ali Hortacsu
  • Steven L. Puller

We examine the bidding behavior of firms competing on ERCOT, the hourly electricity balancing market in Texas. We characterize an equilibrium model of bidding into this uniform-price divisible-good auction market. Using detailed firm-level data on bids and marginal costs of generation, we find that firms with large stakes in the market performed close to theoretical benchmarks of static, profit-maximizing bidding derived from our model. However, several smaller firms utilized excessively steep bid schedules that deviated significantly from our theoretical benchmarks, in a manner that could not be empirically accounted for by the presence of technological adjustment costs, transmission constraints, or collusive behavior. Our results suggest that payoff scale matters in firms' willingness and ability to participate in complex, strategic market environments. Finally, although smaller firms moved closer to theoretical bidding benchmarks over time, their bidding patterns contributed to productive inefficiency in this newly restructured market, along with efficiency losses due to the close-to optimal exercise of market power by larger firms.

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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 11123.

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Date of creation: Feb 2005
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Publication status: published as Hortacsu, Ali and Steven Puller. “Understanding Strategic Bidding in Multi-Unit Auctions: A Case Study of the Texas Electricity Spot Market.” RAND Journal of Economics 39 (Spring 2008): 86-114.
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:11123
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  1. Patrick Bajari & Ali Hortacsu, 2003. "Are Structural Estimates of Auction Models Reasonable? Evidence from Experimental Data," Working Papers 03002, Stanford University, Department of Economics.
  2. Paul Klemperer, 2000. "Why Every Economist Should Learn Some Auction Theory," Microeconomics 0004009, EconWPA.
  3. Von der Fehr, N.H.M. & Harbord, D., 1992. "Spot Market Competition in the UK Electricity Industry," Memorandum 09/1992, Oslo University, Department of Economics.
  4. Erin T. Mansur, 2008. "Measuring Welfare in Restructured Electricity Markets," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 90(2), pages 369-386, May.
  5. Bushnell, James & Wolfram, Catherine, 2008. "Electricity Markets," Staff General Research Papers 31547, Iowa State University, Department of Economics.
  6. Green, Richard & Newbery, David M G, 1991. "Competition in the British Electricity Spot Market," CEPR Discussion Papers 557, C.E.P.R. Discussion Papers.
  7. Paul R. Milgrom, 1985. "Auction Theory," Cowles Foundation Discussion Papers 779, Cowles Foundation for Research in Economics, Yale University.
  8. Lawrence M. Ausubel & Peter Cramton, 1995. "Demand Reduction and Inefficiency in Multi-Unit Auctions," Papers of Peter Cramton 98wpdr, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 22 Jul 2002.
  9. Demsetz, Harold & Lehn, Kenneth, 1985. "The Structure of Corporate Ownership: Causes and Consequences," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 93(6), pages 1155-77, December.
  10. Ross Baldick & Ryan Grant & Edward Kahn, 2004. "Theory and Application of Linear Supply Function Equilibrium in Electricity Markets," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 25(2), pages 143-167, 03.
  11. Peter Cramton, 2004. "Competitive Bidding Behavior in Uniform-Price Auction Markets," Papers of Peter Cramton 04hicss, University of Maryland, Department of Economics - Peter Cramton, revised 2004.
  12. S. Viswanathan & James J.D. Wang, 2004. "Optimal Bidding in Multi-Unit Discriminatory Auctions: Two Bidders," Econometric Society 2004 North American Winter Meetings 58, Econometric Society.
  13. Wilson, Robert, 1979. "Auctions of Shares," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, MIT Press, vol. 93(4), pages 675-89, November.
  14. Robert Wilson, 2002. "Architecture of Power Markets," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 70(4), pages 1299-1340, July.
  15. Hansen, Lars Peter, 1982. "Large Sample Properties of Generalized Method of Moments Estimators," Econometrica, Econometric Society, vol. 50(4), pages 1029-54, July.
  16. Severin Borenstein & James B. Bushnell & Frank A. Wolak, 2002. "Measuring Market Inefficiencies in California's Restructured Wholesale Electricity Market," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 92(5), pages 1376-1405, December.
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