The Redistributional Impact of Non-linear Electricity Pricing
Utility regulators frequently focus as much or more on the distributional impact of electric rate structures as on their efficiency. The goal of protecting low-income consumers has become more central with recent increases in wholesale power costs and anticipation of significant costs of greenhouse gas emissions in the near future. These concerns have led to the widespread use of increasing-block pricing (IBP), under which the marginal price to the household increases as its daily or monthly usage rises. There is no cost basis for differentiating marginal price of electricity by consumption level, so perhaps nowhere is the conflict between efficiency and distributional goals greater than in the use of IBP. California has adopted some of the most steeply increasing-block tariffs in electric utility history. Combining household-level utility billing data with census data on income distribution by area, I derive estimates of the income redistribution effected by these increasing-block electricity tariffs. I find that the rate structure does redistribute income to lower-income groups, cutting the bills of households in the lowest income bracket by about 12% (about $5 per month). The effect would be about twice as large if not for the presence of another program that offers a different and lower rate structure to qualified low-income households. I find that the deadweight loss associated with IBP is likely to be large relative to the transfers. In contrast, I find that the means-tested program transfers income with much less economic inefficiency. A much larger share of the revenue redistributed by the IBP tariff, however, comes from the wealthiest quintile of households, so IBP may be a more progressive structure of redistribution. In carrying out the analysis, I also show that a common approach to studying (or controlling for) income distribution effects by using median household income within a census block group may substantially understate the potential effects.
|Date of creation:||Mar 2010|
|Publication status:||published as Severin Borenstein, 2012. "The Redistributional Impact of Nonlinear Electricity Pricing," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 4(3), pages 56-90, August.|
|Contact details of provider:|| Postal: National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Avenue Cambridge, MA 02138, U.S.A.|
Web page: http://www.nber.org
More information through EDIRC
Please report citation or reference errors to , or , if you are the registered author of the cited work, log in to your RePEc Author Service profile, click on "citations" and make appropriate adjustments.:
- Gibson, Michael & Price, Catherine, 1986. "Standing charge rebates Costs and benefits," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 14(3), pages 262-271, June.
- Michael Hennessy, 1984. "The Evaluation of Lifeline Electricity Rates," Evaluation Review, , vol. 8(3), pages 327-346, June.
- Herriges, Joseph A & King, Kathleen Kuester, 1994. "Residential Demand for Electricity under Inverted Block Rates: Evidence from a Controlled Experiment," Journal of Business & Economic Statistics, American Statistical Association, vol. 12(4), pages 419-430, October.
- Snow, Arthur & Warren, Ronald Jr., 1996. "The marginal welfare cost of public funds: Theory and estimates," Journal of Public Economics, Elsevier, vol. 61(2), pages 289-305, August.
- Wodon, Quentin & Ajwad, Mohamed Ishan & Siaens, Corinne, 2003. "Lifeline or Means-Testing? Electric Utility Subsidies in Honduras," MPRA Paper 15419, University Library of Munich, Germany.
- Michael Hennessy & Dennis M. Keane, 1989. "Lifeline Rates in California," Evaluation Review, , vol. 13(2), pages 123-140, April.
- Penelope J. Brook & Timothy C. Irwin, 2003. "Infrastructure for Poor People : Public Policy for Private Provision," World Bank Publications, The World Bank, number 15159, September.
- Emmanuel Saez, 2010.
"Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?,"
American Economic Journal: Economic Policy,
American Economic Association, vol. 2(3), pages 180-212, August.
- Emmanuel Saez, 1999. "Do Taxpayers Bunch at Kink Points?," NBER Working Papers 7366, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Brian A. Jacob & Lars Lefgren, 2007. "What Do Parents Value in Education? An Empirical Investigation of Parents' Revealed Preferences for Teachers," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 122(4), pages 1603-1637.
- Shin, Jeong-Shik, 1985. "Perception of Price When Price Information Is Costly: Evidence from Residential Electricity Demand," The Review of Economics and Statistics, MIT Press, vol. 67(4), pages 591-598, November.
- Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton, 1992. "Distortionary Taxes and the Provision of Public Goods," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 6(3), pages 117-131, Summer.
- Charles L. Ballard & Don Fullerton, 1990. "Distortionary Taxes and the Provision of Public Goods," NBER Working Papers 3506, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Lester D. Taylor, 1975. "The Demand for Electricity: A Survey," Bell Journal of Economics, The RAND Corporation, vol. 6(1), pages 74-110, Spring.
- Koichiro Ito, 2014. "Do Consumers Respond to Marginal or Average Price? Evidence from Nonlinear Electricity Pricing," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(2), pages 537-563, February.
- Koichiro Ito, 2012. "Do Consumers Respond to Marginal or Average Price? Evidence from Nonlinear Electricity Pricing," NBER Working Papers 18533, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
- Martin S. Feldstein, 1972. "Equity and Efficiency in Public Sector Pricing: The Optimal Two-Part Tariff," The Quarterly Journal of Economics, Oxford University Press, vol. 86(2), pages 175-187. Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)