‘You: The Problem in Energy Policy’

The Autumn Seminar Series continues on Friday 4th December with the delightful Elizabeth Errington (CCP and PPL) presenting ‘You: The Problem in Energy Policy‘. Liz is a PhD student in the School of Politics, Philosophy, Language and Communications Studies, where she researches a host of issues, including energy policy, consumers and affordability. An abstract for her presentation can be found below.


The challenge of delivering affordable, sustainable and secure energy supplies continues to keep energy policy firmly on the agenda. However, despite consistent focus by practitioners and researchers the processes and results of the formulation of these policies still remains largely unknown.

Many factors ensure policy formulation generally and energy policy specifically is opaque. These include the multiple and interlinked roles of actors and policy venues, the role of an economic regulator and the activities of firms (with the associated need for commercial confidentiality). In addition to the complexity of the processes themselves, energy policy formulation is opaque due to these processes occurring largely ‘behind closed doors’.

This presentation will outline the research opportunities of using the way ‘problems’ are identified, conceptualized and represented to provide important insights into the opaque world of energy policy formulation. This will be illustrated using the initial findings from one year of a PhD study.

The findings so far? The problem is you.

The seminar will take place from 13:00-14:00 in Room 1.03 of the Thomas Paine Study Centre.

‘Revisiting the Regulatory State: A Multidisciplinary Review Establishing a New Research Agenda’

On Friday 21st November with the dynamic duo of David Deller (CCP) and Francesca Vantaggiato (CCP and PPL) presenting their research entitled ‘Revisiting the Regulatory State: A Multidisciplinary Review Establishing a New Research Agenda‘. David and Francesca first began researching the topic last year when working as Research Associates at the CCP. David joined the Centre in September 2013 having attained a PhD in Economics from the University of Essex. Francesca is a Political Scientist who also joined the CCP in 2013 and has since started her PhD at the School of Politics, Philosophy Language and Communication Studies.  An abstract for their paper can be found below.


The paper provides a comprehensive literature review of the ‘Regulatory State’ through the lens of utility regulation. The review is multidisciplinary with it bringing together the insights available from the political science, economics, legal and management science literatures. It is clear that while the term ‘Regulatory State’ is essentially missing from the economics literature a vast array of economics papers provide valuable insights for debates about the Regulatory State within political science.

In addition to reviewing the existing literature, the paper identifies opportunities for future research. The literature is grouped into five topics: (i) Consumers, (ii) Courts, (iii) Ideas, Experts and Expertise, (iv) Governance and (v) Assessing Regulator Performance. Apart from (iv), we believe all of these areas have been under-researched in relative terms. In particular, a key finding is that compared to the information available on Public Utility Commissioners in US States, very little information has been collated on the background, characteristics and careers of individual utility regulators working within Europe.

The seminar takes place from 13:00-14:00 in the Thomas Paine Study Centre, Room 1.03.

Live comments from the CCP Summer Conference 2014 – Session 1

Session 1: Introduction – What is a Problem Market?

Stephen Davies  (CCP, UEA) opened with some personal thoughts on clarifying “problem markets”. While no textbook definition exists, we know that certain markets generate a stream of work for competition authorities, despite any obvious contravention of competition or antitrust law. Could it be that these markets are “too hot to handle”? Stephen’s personal list of problem markets includes retail energy, supermarkets and healthcare. In more academic terms, the issues can be characterised in terms of tacit collusion, behavioural consumers, manipulation of thin markets, divergent incentives and public policy objectives.

CCP Session 1 Steve

Amelia Fletcher (CCP, UEA) explored the “gap” between competition and consumer law via two themes: the “gap” between core competition and consumer law, and the issue of potentially costly and ineffective ex ante remedial intervention which may have unintended consequences. While ex post standard competition law may be considered to address issues arising on the consumer side (in accessing, assessing and acting on relevant information), it deals less well with supply-side issues such as existing structural issues and market manipulation. Sectoral regulators and the CMA (via market investigations) are increasingly involved in this “gap”, with a current focus on search and switching costs and facilitating entry and expansion. However, there may be a need for further considerations, such as whether problems have been misdiagnosed and remedies poorly designed.

CCP Session 1 Amelia


Ashleye Gunn (Which?) Started by challenging the (pre-financial crisis) accepted wisdom that “markets always work” by calling for qualification of buzzwords such as “choice” (needs to be meaningful), “innovation” (needs to benefit consumers) and “information” (there is a need for clear and comparable pricing information). Which? uses two tests identify problem markets, and specifically the source and extent of ‘problems’ for consumers: whether the market is achieving its aims, and whether it is working for consumers as well as business. In particular, confusing pricing has been identified as central to problems because it can lead to consumers not driving competition. Which? campaigns therefore incorporate a range of different issues from ‘everyday frustrations’ to significant structural and cultural issues in major sectors. These campaigns involve not only traditional policy lobbying but also direct intervention in markets where consumers are at a disadvantage.

CCP Session 1 Ashleye

Catherine Waddams (CCP, UEA) introduced CCP’s collaboration with Which? on The Big Switch (TBS) by clarifying aspects of a well-functioning market and how energy may differ from this, for example by possible softening of some rivalry between companies. The study used probit analysis to identify the effects of multiple factors on switching decisions. Key results were that seeing two offers rather than one reduced the likelihood of switching by five percentage points, and that confidence was an important factor in determining activity.

CCP Session 1 Catherine

‘The globalization of energy regulation: networks and politics intertwined’

The latest offering in the CCP’s Spring seminar comes courtesy of the hugely gifted Francesca Vantaggiato (CCP) , a Research Associate at the Centre, who will be presenting her research on ‘The globalization of energy regulation: networks and politics intertwined‘ on Friday 7th March. An abstract for her seminar can be found below.


The presentation will tackle the topic of regionalism and globalization of energy regulation, as implemented by energy regulators themselves. Regionalism and/or globalization in regulatory matters have been explored in a number of other sectors, namely securities, banking, standard-setting by private bodies, competition. Energy is, among the utilities, the sector in which such developments were to be expected given the geopolitical dimension of energy issues. Currently, there are 11 energy Regional Regulatory Networks in the world, which collectively represent over 200 energy national/state regulatory authorities from all continents. RRNs usually respect a geographical criterion and have both an internal and an external function: internally, they serve to enhance members’ capacity and to socialize members; externally, they serve as means of contact with regulators and other energy stakeholders in other countries. It is hypothesised that energy regulators, in both developed and developing countries, far from being unconcerned with political and power relations, endorse domestic foreign policy objectives with regard to energy issues, and help in carrying them out also through RRNs. The regulators’ motivation to do so could be traced in their willingness to increase their own institutional relevance and legitimacy, both nationally and internationally. By examining the history and the features of these RRNs, the presentation will introduce a set of research questions that aim to investigate the extent and the goals of these regionalization processes. In particular, the role EU and USA regulators have played and play in shaping the features of other RRNs will be presented as evidence of the stated hypothesis.

The seminar takes place from 13:00-14:00 in the Thomas Paine Study Centre, Room 1.1.