The Economics of Electricity Markets

The cost-efficient supply of cheap, reliable and environmentally friendly electricity requires (1) a well-functioning market for power generation; (2) appropriately regulated transmission and distribution networks; (3) smooth coordination of transmission demand and wholesale supply; (4) appropriate capacity investment incentives.


The purpose of this research program is to study the welfare economics of electricity markets with respect to competition, regulation and industry structure.

Program Director: Thomas Tangerås



How to create an integrated electricity market?

The world’s first multinational electricity market was formed with the creation of the Nordic power exchange, Nord Pool. Lars Persson and Thomas Tangerås analyze the incentives to undertake transmission network investment in the context of the liberalized Nordic electricity market. Welfare improving investment in a multinational electricity market requires accounting for the cross-border effects of capacity expansion. The authors propose methods to increase voluntary cooperation on international infrastructure projects, with an aim to increase aggregate efficiency and achieve equitable distribution of the gains from market integration.

Download: Transmission network investment across national borders: The liberalized Nordic electricity market by Lars Persson and Thomas Tangerås


Improvement of zonal pricing in wholesale electricity markets

European day-ahead markets for electricity apply zonal pricing. Prices are then allowed to differ across zones because of network congestion, but are the same within each zone. In the real-time market, there can be price differences also within zones because of local bottlenecks. This paper proposes a new market design with the property that prices are the same within zones also in the real-time market. Simulations show that this design substantially would reduce problems associated with strategic behavior in the wholesale market arising from price manipulation between the day-ahead and real-time market.

Download: Simulation and evaluation of zonal electricity market designs by Mohammad R. Hesamzadeh, Pär Holmberg and Mahir Sarfati

Imperfect competition in the Nordic wholesale electricity market 

Erik Lundin and Thomas Tangerås analyze market performance on the Nordic Power exchange, Nord Pool. Results show that producers exercising market power charge prices that on average are 8-11 per cent above marginal production cost. There is some evidence that the division of Sweden in multiple price areas reduced market performance.

Download: Cournot competition in wholesale electricity markets: The Nordic power exchange, Nord Pool by Erik Lundin and Thomas Tangerås

Standard market designs increase competition while maintaining price equality for consumers 

Thomas Tangerås and Frank A.Wolak show that a common regulatory mandate in electricity markets that use location-based pricing can increase the performance of imperfectly competitive wholesale electricity markets. Requiring all customers to purchase their wholesale electricity at the same quantity-weighted average of the locational prices strengthens the incentive for vertically integrated firms to participate in the retail market, which increases competition in the short-term wholesale market. In contrast, linking locational markets through a long-term contract that clears against the quantity-weighted average of short-term wholesale prices does not impact average wholesale market performance. These results imply that a policy designed to address equity considerations can also enhance efficiency in wholesale electricity markets.

Download: The competitive effects of linking electricity markets across space and time by Thomas Tangerås and Frank A.Wolak

Production or transmission investment?

Mario Blázquez de Paz analyzes the effects of investments in transmission and production capacity on consumer welfare and suppliers’ profits. In the specific context of the model, consumer welfare is shown to be higher when the transmission network is expanded compared to an increase in capacity.

Download: Production on transmission investments? A comparative study by Mario Blazquez de Paz

How did privatization affect prices and efficiency in Swedish electricity distribution companies?

Around the turn of the millennium, a wave of privatizations in the Swedish electricity distribution sector lead to an increase in ownership concentration. In this project, Erik Lundin analyzes the performance of the acquired distribution firms to see if privately owned networks have a stronger incentive to increase prices and reduce costs than non-private ones. Results show that labor costs fell in the privatized networks, but that this reduction did not lead to a reduction in network tariffs.

Download: Effects of privatization on prices and labor efficiency: The Swedish electricitty distribution sector by Erik Lundin

Joint ownership of nuclear power increases wholesale electricity prices

In this research paper, Erik Lundin conducts an empirical investigation of the anticompetitive effects of joint ownership, by examining the operation of three nuclear plants in Sweden.  Using data on production and bidding curves on the day-ahead market, the model is tested against data for three behavioral assumptions: Unilateral profit maximization; joint profit maximization; and a social planner. Modeling for joint profit maximization best matches data, indicating that joint ownership has facilitated coordination of maintenance decisions. Terminating the joint ownership and modeling for unilateral profit maximization would lead to a 5 percent decrease in prices and a 6 percent decrease in system production costs.

Download: Market power and joint ownership: Evidence from nuclear plants in Sweden by Erik Lundin

Market design in electricity markets with transmission constraints

Electricity markets are becoming increasingly integrated. In this research paper, Mario de Blazquez de Paz analyses the performance of uniform and discriminatory price auctions in the presence of transmission constraints and transmission costs. A main finding is that the discriminatory price auction could outperform the uniform price auction when transmission constraints are binding.

Download: Auction performance on wholesale electricity markets in the presence of transmission constraints and transmission costs by Mario Blazquez de Paz

Is there insider trading on the Nordic intra-day electricity market?

In this research paper Ewa Lazarczyk conducts an empirical investigation of market participants’ reactions to news about sudden production and transmission failures on the electricity grid - so-called urgent market messages (UMMs). Market prices in the intra-day market respond to UMMs. However, there is also a significant effect on prices immediately prior to UMM announcement, indicating that private information exists and is being used for trading on the intra-day market.

Download: Public and private information on the Nordic intra-day electricity market by Ewa Lazarczyk

Do generation companies disguise strategic withholding as reported production failures?

Sara Fogelberg and Ewa Lazarczyk apply a quasi-experimental design and use data from the Swedish energy market to examine whether generation companies use reported production failures to disguise strategic reductions of capacity with the purpose of influencing prices. In a market without strategic withholding, the decision to report a failure should be independent of the market price. This paper shows that marginal producers in fact base their decision on prices as well, a result which indicates that failure reports are a result of economic incentives and not only technical problems.

Download: Strategic withholding through production failures by Sara Fogelberg and Ewa Lazarczyk

International cooperation

Visiting researchers

Collaborating with others is essential for IFN as a research institute. Our researchers co-author articles with colleagues from other institutes, and many also teach at various universities and colleges.

As part of our extensive program of guest researchers, leading international researchers visit the institute. The visitors present and pursue their research as well as interact and cooperate with researchers at IFN.

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Research Institute of Industrial Economics, Grevgatan 34 - 2 fl, Box 55665, SE-102 15 Stockholm, Sweden | Phone: +46-(0)8-665 45 00 |