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Regulatory governance and Chile's 1998-99 electricity shortage

  • Fischer, Ronald
  • Galetovic, Alexander

In the early 1980s Chile reformed its electricity sector, introducing a regulatory framework that became influential worldwide. But in 1998 and 1999 La Ni?a brought one of the worst droughts on record, causing a price system collapse, random power outages, and three-hour rotating electricity cuts. The authors study the interaction between regulatory incentives and governance during the 1998-99 electricity shortage, showing that the supply restriction could have been managed without outages. The shortage can be blamed on a rigid price system, which was unable to respond to large supply shocks, and on deficient regulatory governance, which led to a weak regulator unable to make the system work. The authors also show that the regulator's weakness stemmed not from lack of formal powers but from vulnerability to lobbyists and a lack of independence. Moreover, the regulator seems not to have fully understood the incentives in the price system during supply restrictions. The authorsconclude that the Chilean shortage shows the limitations of a rigid price system requiring heavy regulatory intervention. This suggests that countries whose governance structures are ill suited to dealing with loopholes left by the law should rely as much as possible on market rules that clearly allocate property rights ex ante and leave the terms of contracts to be freely negotiated by private parties.

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Paper provided by The World Bank in its series Policy Research Working Paper Series with number 2704.

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Date of creation: 30 Nov 2001
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Handle: RePEc:wbk:wbrwps:2704
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  1. Bernstein, Sebastian & Agurto, Renato, 1992. "Use of outage cost for electricity pricing in Chile," Utilities Policy, Elsevier, vol. 2(4), pages 299-302, October.
  2. Sanghvi, Arun P., 1983. "Optimal electricity supply reliability using customer shortage costs," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 5(2), pages 129-136, April.
  3. Nesbakken, Runa, 1999. "Price sensitivity of residential energy consumption in Norway," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 21(6), pages 493-515, December.
  4. Serra, Pablo J., 1997. "Energy pricing under uncertain supply," Energy Economics, Elsevier, vol. 19(2), pages 209-223, May.
  5. Federico Basañes & Eduardo Saavedra & Raimundo Soto, . "Post-Privatization Renegotiations and Disputes in Chile," ILADES-Georgetown University Working Papers inv117, Ilades-Georgetown University, Universidad Alberto Hurtado/School of Economics and Bussines.
  6. Pablo Serra & Gabriel Fierro, 1996. "Outage Cost in Chilean Industry," Documentos de Trabajo 10, Centro de Economía Aplicada, Universidad de Chile.
  7. Bernstein, Sebastian, 1988. "Competition, marginal cost tariffs and spot pricing in the Chilean electric power sector," Energy Policy, Elsevier, vol. 16(4), pages 369-377, August.
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