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Market Power in Electricity Markets: Beyond Concentration Measures

Severin Borenstein, James Bushnell and Christopher R. Knittel

Year: 1999
Volume: Volume20
Number: Number 4
DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol20-No4-3
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Abstract:
The wave of electricity market restructuring both within the United States and abroad has brought the issue of horizontal market power to the forefront of energy policy. Traditionally, estimation and prediction of market power has relied heavily on concentration measures. In this paper, we discuss the weaknesses of concentration measures as a viable measure of market power in the electricity industry, and we propose an alternative method based oil market simulations that take advantage of existing plant level data. We discuss results from previous studies the authors have performed, and present new results that allow for the detection of threshold demand levels where market power is likely to be a problem. In addition, we analyze the impact of that recent divestitures in the California electricity market will have on estimated market power. We close with a discussion of the policy implications of the results.



Ethanol Production and Gasoline Prices: A Spurious Correlation

Christopher R. Knittel and Aaron Smith

Year: 2015
Volume: Volume 36
Number: Number 1
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.36.1.4
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Abstract:
Ethanol made from corn comprises 10% of U.S. gasoline, up from 3% in 2003. This dramatic increase was spurred by recent policy initiatives such as the Renewable Fuel Standard and state-level blend mandates and supported by direct subsidies such as the Volumetric Ethanol Excise Tax Credit. Some proponents of ethanol have argued that ethanol production greatly lowers gasoline prices, with one industry group claiming it reduced gasoline prices by 89 cents in 2010 and $1.09 in 2011. The 2010 figure has been cited in numerous speeches by Secretary of Agriculture Thomas Vilsack. We show that these estimates were generated by implausible economic assumptions and spurious statistical correlations. To support this last point, we use the same statistical models and find that ethanol production "decreases" natural gas prices, but "increases" unemployment in both the U.S. and Europe. We even show that ethanol production "increases" the ages of our children. Overall, we see no compelling reason to believe that the effect of ethanol use on gasoline prices has been more than $0.10 per gallon.



Unintended Consequences of Carbon Policies: Transportation Fuels, Land-Use, Emissions, and Innovation

Stephen P. Holland, Jonathan E. Hughes, Christopher R. Knittel, Nathan C. Parker

Year: 2015
Volume: Volume 36
Number: Number 3
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.36.3.shol
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Abstract:
Renewable fuel standards, low carbon fuel standards, and ethanol subsidies are popular policies to incentivize ethanol production and reduce emissions from transportation. Compared to carbon trading, these policies lead to large shifts in agricultural activity and unexpected social costs. We simulate the 2022 Federal Renewable Fuel Standard (RFS) and find that energy crop production increases by 39 million acres. Land-use costs from erosion and habitat loss are between $277 and $693 million. A low carbon fuel standard (LCFS) and ethanol subsidies have similar effects while costs under an equivalent cap and trade (CAT) system are essentially zero. In addition, the alternatives to CAT magnify errors in assigning emissions rates to fuels and can over or under-incentivize innovation. These results highlight the potential negative effects of the RFS, LCFS and subsidies, effects that would be less severe under a CAT policy.



The Efficiency and Distributional Effects of Alternative Residential Electricity Rate Designs

Scott P. Burger, Christopher R. Knittel, Ignacio J. Perez-Arriaga, Ian Schneider, and Frederik vom Scheidt

Year: 2020
Volume: Volume 41
Number: Number 1
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.41.1.sbur
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Abstract:
Electricity tariffs typically charge residential users a volumetric rate that covers the bulk of energy, transmission, and distribution costs. The resulting prices, charged per unit of electricity consumed, do not reflect marginal costs and vary little across time and space. The emergence of distributed energy resources - such as solar photovoltaics and energy storage - has sparked interest among regulators and utilities in reforming electricity tariffs to enable more efficient utilization of these resources. The economic pressure to redesign electricity rates is countered by concerns of how more efficient rate structures might impact different socioeconomic groups. We analyze the bill impacts of alternative rate plans using interval metering data for more than 100,000 customers in the Chicago, Illinois area. We combine these data with granular Census data to assess the incidence of bill changes across different socioeconomic groups. We find that low-income customers would face bill increases on average in a transition to more economically efficient electricity tariffs. However, we demonstrate that simple changes to fixed charges in two-part tariffs can mitigate these disparities while preserving all, or the vast majority, of the efficiency gains. These designs rely exclusively on observable information and could be replicated by utilities in many geographies across the U.S.





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