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A New Perspective: Investment and Efficiency under Incentive Regulation

Rahmatallah Poudineh and Tooraj Jamasb

Year: 2015
Volume: Volume 36
Number: Number 4
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.36.4.rpou
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Following the liberalisation of the electricity industry since the early 1990s, many sector regulators have adopted incentive regulation aided by benchmarking and productivity analysis. This approach has often resulted in efficiency and quality of service improvement. However, there remains a growing concern as to whether the utilities invest sufficiently and efficiently in maintaining and modernising their networks. This paper studies the relationship between investments and cost efficiency in the context of incentive regulation with ex-post regulatory treatment of investments using a panel dataset of 129 Norwegian distribution companies from 2004 to 2010. We introduce the concept of "no impact efficiency" as a revenue-neutral efficiency effect of investment under incentive regulation that makes a firm "investment efficient" in cost benchmarking. Also, we estimate the observed efficiency effect of investments and compare these with the no impact efficiency. Finally, we discuss the implications of cost benchmarking for investment behaviour of network companies.

A Spatial Stochastic Frontier Model with Omitted Variables: Electricity Distribution in Norway

Luis Orea, Inmaculada C. Álvarez, and Tooraj Jamasb

Year: 2018
Volume: Volume 39
Number: Number 3
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.39.3.lore
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An important methodological issue in efficiency analysis for incentive regulation of utilities is how to account for the effect of unobserved cost drivers such as environmental factors. We combine a spatial econometric approach with stochastic frontier analysis to control for unobserved environmental conditions when measuring efficiency of electricity distribution utilities. Our empirical strategy relies on the geographic location of firms as a source of information that has previously not been explored in the literature. The underlying idea is to utilise data from neighbouring firms that can be spatially correlated as proxies for unobserved cost drivers. We illustrate this approach using a dataset of Norwegian distribution utilities for the 2004-2011 period. We show that the lack of information on weather and geographic conditions can be compensated with data from surrounding firms. The methodology can be used in efficiency analysis and regulation of other utilities sectors where unobservable cost drivers are important, e.g. gas, water, agriculture, fishing.

Least-cost Distribution Network Tariff Design in Theory and Practice

Tim Schittekatte and Leonardo Meeus

Year: 2020
Volume: Volume 41
Number: Number 5
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.41.5.tsch
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In this paper a game-theoretical model with self-interest pursuing consumers is introduced in order to assess how to design a least-cost distribution tariff under two constraints that regulators typically face. The first constraint is related to difficulties regarding the implementation of cost-reflective tariffs. In practice, so-called cost-reflective tariffs are only a proxy for the actual cost driver(s) in distribution grids. The second constraint has to do with fairness. There is a fear that active consumers investing in distributed energy resources (DER) might benefit at the expense of passive consumers. We find that both constraints have a significant impact on the least-cost network tariff design, and the results depend on the state of the grid. If most of the grid investments still have to be made, passive and active consumers can both benefit from cost-reflective tariffs, while this is not the case for passive consumers if the costs are mostly sunk.

The Economics of Demand-side Flexibility in Distribution Grids

Athir Nouicer, Leonardo Meeus, and Erik Delarue

Year: 2023
Volume: Volume 44
Number: Number 1
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.44.1.anou
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To avoid unnecessary distribution network investments, distribution tariffs are expected to become more cost-reflective, and DSOs are expected to procure flexibility. This will provide an implicit and an explicit incentive to provide demand-side flexibility. In this paper, we develop a long-term bi-level equilibrium model. In the upper level, the DSO optimizes social welfare by deciding the level of investment in the distribution network and/or curtailing consumers. The regulated DSO also sets a network tariff to recover the network and flexibility costs. In the lower level, the consumers, active and passive, maximize their own welfare. We find that implicit and explicit incentives for demand-side flexibility are complementary regulatory tools, but there are limits. If network tariffs are too imperfect, the resulting consumption profiles can become too expensive to fix with curtailment. We also find that it is difficult to set an appropriate level of compensation because of the reaction by prosumers.

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