IDEAS home Printed from https://ideas.repec.org/p/nbr/nberwo/21113.html
   My bibliography  Save this paper

The U.S. Electricity Industry After 20 Years of Restructuring

Author

Listed:
  • Severin Borenstein
  • James Bushnell

Abstract

Prior to the 1990s, most electricity customers in the U.S. were served by regulated, vertically-integrated, monopoly utilities that handled electricity generation, transmission, local distribution and billing/collections. Regulators set retail electricity prices to allow the utility to recover its prudently incurred costs, a process known as cost-of-service regulation. During the 1990s, this model was disrupted in many states by "electricity restructuring," a term used to describe legal changes that allowed both non-utility generators to sell electricity to utilities — displacing the utility generation function — and/or "retail service providers" to buy electricity from generators and sell to end-use customers — displacing the utility procurement and billing functions. We review the original economic arguments for electricity restructuring, the potential winners and losers from these changes, and what has actually happened in the subsequent years. We argue that the greatest political motivation for restructuring was rent shifting, not efficiency improvements, and that this explanation is supported by observed waxing and waning of political enthusiasm for electricity reform. While electricity restructuring has brought significant efficiency improvements in generation, it has generally been viewed as a disappointment because the price-reduction promises made by some advocates were based on politically-unsustainable rent transfers. In reality, the electricity rate changes since restructuring have been driven more by exogenous factors — such as generation technology advances and natural gas price fluctuations — than by the effects of restructuring. We argue that a similar dynamic underpins the current political momentum behind distributed generation (primarily rooftop solar PV) which remains costly from a societal viewpoint, but privately economic due to the rent transfers it enables.

Suggested Citation

  • Severin Borenstein & James Bushnell, 2015. "The U.S. Electricity Industry After 20 Years of Restructuring," NBER Working Papers 21113, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
  • Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21113
    Note: EEE IO PR
    as

    Download full text from publisher

    File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w21113.pdf
    Download Restriction: no
    ---><---

    Other versions of this item:

    References listed on IDEAS

    as
    1. Lucas W. Davis & Catherine Wolfram, 2012. "Deregulation, Consolidation, and Efficiency: Evidence from US Nuclear Power," American Economic Journal: Applied Economics, American Economic Association, vol. 4(4), pages 194-225, October.
    2. James B. Bushnell & Erin T. Mansur & Celeste Saravia, 2008. "Vertical Arrangements, Market Structure, and Competition: An Analysis of Restructured US Electricity Markets," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 98(1), pages 237-266, March.
    3. Paul Joskow & Jean Tirole, 2006. "Retail electricity competition," RAND Journal of Economics, RAND Corporation, vol. 37(4), pages 799-815, December.
    4. Paul L. Joskow, 2006. "Markets for Power in the United States: An Interim Assessment," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 1), pages 1-36.
    5. Carl Blumstein & Lee Friedman & Richard Green, 2002. "The History of Electricity Restructuring in California," Journal of Industry, Competition and Trade, Springer, vol. 2(1), pages 9-38, June.
    6. 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.
    7. Apt, Jay, 2005. "Competition Has Not Lowered U.S. Industrial Electricity Prices," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 18(2), pages 52-61, March.
    8. Paul L. Joskow, 2001. "California's Electricity Crisis," Oxford Review of Economic Policy, Oxford University Press, vol. 17(3), pages 365-388.
    9. repec:rje:randje:v:37:y:2006:i:4:p:799-815 is not listed on IDEAS
    10. 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.
    11. Katrina Jessoe & David Rapson, 2014. "Knowledge Is (Less) Power: Experimental Evidence from Residential Energy Use," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 104(4), pages 1417-1438, April.
    12. 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.
    13. Paul L. Joskow & Edward Kohn, 2002. "A Quantitative Analysis of Pricing Behavior in California's Wholesale Electricity Market During Summer 2000," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 4), pages 1-35.
    14. Borenstein, Severin & Bushnell, James, 2000. "Electricity Restructuring: Deregulation or Reregulation?," Competition Policy Center, Working Paper Series qt22d2q3fn, Competition Policy Center, Institute for Business and Economic Research, UC Berkeley.
    15. Severin Borenstein, 2012. "The Private and Public Economics of Renewable Electricity Generation," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 26(1), pages 67-92, Winter.
    16. Paul L. Joskow, 1997. "Restructuring, Competition and Regulatory Reform in the U.S. Electricity Sector," Journal of Economic Perspectives, American Economic Association, vol. 11(3), pages 119-138, Summer.
    17. Andrew Kleit & James Reitzes, 2008. "The effectiveness of FERC’s transmission policy: is transmission used efficiently and when is it scarce?," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 34(1), pages 1-26, August.
    18. Faruqui, Ahmad & George, Stephen S., 2002. "The Value of Dynamic Pricing in Mass Markets," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 15(6), pages 45-55, July.
    19. 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.
    20. Wolak, Frank A., 2003. "Diagnosing the California Electricity Crisis," The Electricity Journal, Elsevier, vol. 16(7), pages 11-37.
    21. 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.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

    Most related items

    These are the items that most often cite the same works as this one and are cited by the same works as this one.
    1. Xuejuan Su, 2015. "Have customers benefited from electricity retail competition?," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 47(2), pages 146-182, April.
    2. Poletti, Steve, 2009. "Government procurement of peak capacity in the New Zealand electricity market," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(9), pages 3409-3417, September.
    3. David P. Brown & Derek E. H. Olmstead, 2017. "Measuring market power and the efficiency of Alberta's restructured electricity market: An energy-only market design," Canadian Journal of Economics, Canadian Economics Association, vol. 50(3), pages 838-870, August.
    4. Donald N. Dewees, 2006. "Electricity Restructuring and Regulation in the Provinces: Ontario and Beyond," Working Papers tecipa-205, University of Toronto, Department of Economics.
    5. Chu, Yin & Chang, Chun-Ping, 2020. "Vertical separation of transmission control and market efficiency in the wholesale electricity market," The North American Journal of Economics and Finance, Elsevier, vol. 51(C).
    6. Koichiro Ito, 2015. "Asymmetric Incentives in Subsidies: Evidence from a Large-Scale Electricity Rebate Program," American Economic Journal: Economic Policy, American Economic Association, vol. 7(3), pages 209-237, August.
    7. Reiss, Peter C. & White, Matthew W., 2003. "Demand and Pricing in Electricity Markets: Evidence from San Diego During California's Energy Crisis," Research Papers 1829, Stanford University, Graduate School of Business.
    8. Baskette, C. & Horii, B. & Kollman, E. & Price, S., 2006. "Avoided cost estimation and post-reform funding allocation for California's energy efficiency programs," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1084-1099.
    9. Helman, Udi, 2006. "Market power monitoring and mitigation in the US wholesale power markets," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 877-904.
    10. Christian Gambardella & Michael Pahle & Wolf-Peter Schill, 2016. "Do Benefits from Dynamic Tariffing Rise? Welfare Effects of Real-Time Pricing under Carbon-Tax-Induced Variable Renewable Energy Supply," Discussion Papers of DIW Berlin 1621, DIW Berlin, German Institute for Economic Research.
    11. Erin T. Mansur, 2007. "Do Oligopolists Pollute Less? Evidence From A Restructured Electricity Market," Journal of Industrial Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 55(4), pages 661-689, December.
    12. Fridolfsson, Sven-Olof & Tangerås, Thomas P., 2009. "Market power in the Nordic electricity wholesale market: A survey of the empirical evidence," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(9), pages 3681-3692, September.
    13. Horowitz, I. & Woo, C.K., 2006. "Designing Pareto-superior demand-response rate options," Energy, Elsevier, vol. 31(6), pages 1040-1051.
    14. Carlo Fezzi & Derek Bunn, 2010. "Structural Analysis of Electricity Demand and Supply Interactions," Oxford Bulletin of Economics and Statistics, Department of Economics, University of Oxford, vol. 72(6), pages 827-856, December.
    15. Theodorou, Petros & Karyampas, Dimitrios, 2008. "Modeling the return and volatility of the Greek electricity marginal system price," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 36(7), pages 2601-2609, July.
    16. Antweiler, Werner, 2016. "Cross-border trade in electricity," Journal of International Economics, Elsevier, vol. 101(C), pages 42-51.
    17. Zhen Lei & Chen-Hao Tsai & Andrew N. Kleit, 2017. "Deregulation and Investment in Generation Capacity: Evidence from Nuclear Power Uprates in the United States," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 3).
    18. Helm, Carsten & Mier, Mathias, 2019. "On the efficient market diffusion of intermittent renewable energies," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 80(C), pages 812-830.
    19. Machiel Mulder, 2015. "Competition in the Dutch Electricity Market: An Empirical Analysis over 2006-2011," The Energy Journal, International Association for Energy Economics, vol. 0(Number 2).
    20. Milstein, Irena & Tishler, Asher, 2015. "Can price volatility enhance market power? The case of renewable technologies in competitive electricity markets," Resource and Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 41(C), pages 70-90.

    More about this item

    JEL classification:

    • L51 - Industrial Organization - - Regulation and Industrial Policy - - - Economics of Regulation
    • L94 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Electric Utilities
    • L97 - Industrial Organization - - Industry Studies: Transportation and Utilities - - - Utilities: General

    NEP fields

    This paper has been announced in the following NEP Reports:

    Statistics

    Access and download statistics

    Corrections

    All material on this site has been provided by the respective publishers and authors. You can help correct errors and omissions. When requesting a correction, please mention this item's handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:21113. See general information about how to correct material in RePEc.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: . General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    If you have authored this item and are not yet registered with RePEc, we encourage you to do it here. This allows to link your profile to this item. It also allows you to accept potential citations to this item that we are uncertain about.

    If CitEc recognized a bibliographic reference but did not link an item in RePEc to it, you can help with this form .

    If you know of missing items citing this one, you can help us creating those links by adding the relevant references in the same way as above, for each refering item. If you are a registered author of this item, you may also want to check the "citations" tab in your RePEc Author Service profile, as there may be some citations waiting for confirmation.

    For technical questions regarding this item, or to correct its authors, title, abstract, bibliographic or download information, contact: (email available below). General contact details of provider: https://edirc.repec.org/data/nberrus.html .

    Please note that corrections may take a couple of weeks to filter through the various RePEc services.

    IDEAS is a RePEc service hosted by the Research Division of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis . RePEc uses bibliographic data supplied by the respective publishers.