Excerpt from the Introduction:
The New England states were among the first in the nation to restructure wholesale and retail electricity markets beginning in the late 1990s. In large part, the action was prompted by the burden of having the highest electricity costs in the country, which created hardships for residential consumers and handicapped many businesses from competing on a “level playing field” with companies located outside the region.2 Restructuring required most electric utilities to: sell their generating plants, allow consumers to choose among electricity suppliers and procure electricity for those consumers not choosing an electricity supplier – while remaining regulated and responsible for local distribution service. Wholesale restructuring involved creating a fair and reliable market for competition in generating electricity while ensuring equal access to transmission grids. Once established, the wholesale market caused electricity to become a commodity with prices set not by regulators, but by market rules and the balance between supply and demand.
We analyze a number of unstudied aspects of retail electricity competition. We first explore the implications of load profiling of consumers whose traditional meters do not allow for measurement of their real time consumption, when consumers are homogeneous up to a scaling factor. In general, the combination of retail competition and load profiling does not yield the second best prices given the non price responsiveness of consumers. Specifically, the competitive equilibrium does not support the Ramsey two-part tariff. By contrast, when consumers have real time meters and are billed based on real time prices and consumption, retail competition yields the Ramsey prices even when consumers can only partially respond to variations in real time prices. More complex consumer heterogeneity does not lead to adverse se1ection and competitive screening behavior unless consumers have real time meters and are not rational. We then examine the incentives competitive retailers have to install one of two types of advanced metering equipment. Competing retailers overinvest in real time meters compared to the Ramsey optimum, but the investment incentives are constrained optimal given load-profiling and retail competition. Finally, we consider the effects of physical limitations on the ability of system operators to cut off individual customers. Competing retailers have no incentive to determine the aggregate value of non-interruption of consumers in the zones they serve, preferring instead to free ride on other retailers serving consumers in the same zones.
The rapid growth in energy trading and movement towards deregulation of electricity markets have come to a halt in the wake of assertions that western U.S. energy markets were manipulated. This paper refocuses attention on the potential efficiency gains from competitive wholesale power trading, showing that for any given level of average demand, retail electricity prices will be lower if electricity is traded in competitive wholesale markets than if electricity is delivered by integrated producer-retailers. Wholesale power trading allows for the diversification of demand risk, and the greatest efficiency gains accrue when power demand is least correlated across markets and when there is substantial geographic variation in expected demand. Simulation evidence indicates that real time power trading could reduce retail prices by conservative estimates of 3 to 4% on average in the U.S., and that the combination of forward and real time trading could reduce prices by 6 to 10% or more. This analysis indicates that economic efficiency would be best served by policy aimed at ensuring that power markets are indeed competitive, and that sufficient transmission capacity exists for profitable power trades to be completed.