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Energy R&D in private and state-owned utilities: an analysis of the major world electric companies

  • Sterlacchini, Alessandro

The last two decades have witnessed a staggering decline of R&D investment in the fields of energy and electricity. This paper contends that this widespread phenomenon is mainly ascribable to the processes of liberalisation and privatisation of electricity markets which have induced electric utilities to dramatically reduce R&D expenditures. However, a closer inspection to recent data concerned with ten major electric companies of the world shows that not all of them behaved in the same way. The drop of research expenditures was particularly strong among the private or newly-privatised companies, while those that remained under public control did not reduce R&D efforts. Moreover, the choice of maintaining an adequate level of R&D was not at odds with the goal of increasing company profits. According to these findings and to the widely recognised need of a surge of energy R&D, radical policy measures seem necessary. Along with an R&D obligation for private electric utilities, also an extension of public ownership or the introduction of public-private partnerships should be seriously taken into account.

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Paper provided by University Library of Munich, Germany in its series MPRA Paper with number 20972.

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Date of creation: 25 Feb 2010
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:pra:mprapa:20972
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  1. Luc BERNIER & Louis SIMARD, 2007. "The Governance Of Public Enterprises: The Quebec Experience," Annals of Public and Cooperative Economics, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 78(3), pages 455-474, 09.
  2. Dooley, J J, 1998. "Unintended consequences: energy R&D in a deregulated energy market," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 26(7), pages 547-555, June.
  3. Calderini, Mario & Garrone, Paola, 2001. "Liberalisation, industry turmoil and the balance of R&D activities," Information Economics and Policy, Elsevier, vol. 13(2), pages 199-230, June.
  4. Machiel Mulder & Victoria Shestalova & Gijsbert Zwart, 2006. "Liberalisation of European energy markets: challenges and policy options," CPB Document 138, CPB Netherlands Bureau for Economic Policy Analysis.
  5. Munari, Federico & Roberts, Edward B. & Sobrero, Maurizio, 2002. "Privatization processes and the redefinition of corporate R&D boundaries," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 31(1), pages 31-53, January.
  6. Jamasb, Tooraj & Pollitt, Michael, 2008. "Liberalisation and R&D in network industries: The case of the electricity industry," Research Policy, Elsevier, vol. 37(6-7), pages 995-1008, July.
  7. Paroma Sanyal, 2007. "The effect of deregulation on environmental research by electric utilities," Journal of Regulatory Economics, Springer, vol. 31(3), pages 335-353, June.
  8. Nemet, Gregory F. & Kammen, Daniel M., 2007. "U.S. energy research and development: Declining investment, increasing need, and the feasibility of expansion," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 35(1), pages 746-755, January.
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