Energy Seminar – week 1: The competitive disadvantages facing British assetless electricity retailers

Hybrid event - Lawrence Haar will present in person at the Oxford Martin School

Lawrence Haar, Senior Lecturer, School of Business and Law, University of Brighton

Summary: From the outset of deregulation and privatisation of UK electricity markets, the desired extent of vertical integration has been debated. Concerns over the dominance of the “Big Six” majors and whether consumers were receiving a fair deal, led the new Government of 2010 to promote the entry of new retail supply firms without generation assets. Increasing consumer choice and facilitating supplier switching were seen as counter-weights to the dominance of the vertically integrated majors. Through various policies favouring new, assetless suppliers, the domestic retail electricity market in the UK has become less concentrated offering more choice to consumers. But the process of reducing market concentration has had setbacks: many new retail suppliers went bankrupt and service quality has been mixed. To address possible short-comings, the Regulator in mid-2019 introduced stricter requirements for a retail supply license but are they sufficient? Combining theory with empirical analysis, it is argued that enhanced requirements are unlikely to be sufficient to ensure the success of these new firms because assetless retailers face competitive disadvantages under the current market structure. Before debating the role and benefits of such firms, their economic viability should be assessed.

Speaker: Dr Lawrence Haar is a Senior Lecturer in Finance with Brighton School of Business and Law, the University of Brighton. Before academia, Dr Haar was a Director and Managing Director for Risk Management and Valuation with major banks, energy and mining companies.  His research interests concern the application of Financial-Economic theory to the energy, petroleum and natural resource sectors. Adopting innovative approaches to perennial issues, he is interested in how regulatory policies affect the behaviour of market participants and the resulting impact on allocative efficiency.  He is an Editor for the journal, Energy Policy and publishes regularly in academic journals, such as Energy Policy, Energy Strategy Review, the International Review of Financial Analysis, the publications of the IAEE as well as Economic Affairs of the IAEE and Regulation published by the CATO Institute. He also appears in the financial press, including the Petroleum Economist and regularly on various BBC radio stations discussing petroleum and energy markets.

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