‘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.

‘Private Meta-Regulation’

We’re delighted to welcome Colin Scott (University College Dublin) to the university today (Friday 24th October). Colin will be attending the UEA Law School Seminar Series, where he will presenting his paper on ‘Private Meta-Regulation‘ which he has co-authored with Fabrizio Cafaggi (SNA and EUI). An abstract for their paper can be found below and further information on the project (including policy briefs and case studies) can be found at the website for the Hague Institute for the Internationalization of Law.


Meta-regulation, the steering or regulation of self-regulation, is increasingly recognised to be an important part of state capacity to harness private regulatory capacity and to govern indirectly. New research on transnational private regulation suggests that the potential of meta-regulation is not limited to the pursuit by the state of the public interest objectives which it defines. Rather we see the emergence of meta-regulatory regimes in which the state is not a significant actor, and within which the mechanisms for asserting meta-regulation are not the hierarchical capacity of the state to impose, but rather the social and market mechanisms associated with other modes of ordering. The reasons for the emergence of such private meta-regulation are explored. These include the need to respond to fragmented regulation, market and social pressures to demonstrate enhanced legitimacy and effectiveness of private regulation, and a wish to address the consequences of competition between regulatory regimes.

In this paper we analyse the modes through which meta-regulation is established, in some instances through membership organisations, using contractual methods, but in other instances without a basis in membership and contract. Related to this we look at how, in the absence of state involvement, meta-regulatory requirements are made binding and how this affects the variety of instruments deployed in particular sectors.  Thus the paper supplements the idea that state capacity is central to meta-regulation showing that there are social and competitive reasons underpinning the establishment of non-state meta-regulatory regimes and offering an analysis of the conditions underpinning the emergence of such regimes and their prospects for success.

The paper raises further questions for discussion. These include an exploration of the mechanisms through which legitimacy and effectiveness of such private meta-regulatory regimes is assured and whether some standard template might be developed to permit meta-regulators to demonstrate compliance with certain basic principles. It also raises the question whether governmental or inter-governmental bodies might have a role in steering of meta-regulation, as appears to have happened in the case of advertising in the EU (meta-meta-regulation).


The seminar will take place from 10:00-11:00 in Earlham Hall, Room 1.07.

‘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.

‘Towards a Complementary Relationship – The Judge and the Regulatory Agency in the Realm of Utilities Regulation’

The CCP Spring seminar series continues on Friday 31st January with Despoina Mantzari (CCP), our newly-appointed Research Associate, who will be presenting her research entitled ‘Towards a Complementary Relationship – The Judge and the Regulatory Agency in the Realm of Utilities Regulation‘. An abstract for Deni’s seminar can be found below.


The increased recourse to expert economic evidence and analysis in utilities regulation brings to the forefront the appropriate scope of review of regulatory decisions. The question asked in this paper is positive and normative. Does and should economic evidence change the scope, process and intensity of review? On a broader level, with the ever-increasing presentation of economic evidence in regulatory disputes, what is the fit with older conceptions of the court-regulatory agency relationship in the US and the UK?

The argument unfolds in two parts. The first part identifies the divergent visions of the court-agency relationship in the US and the UK. It then uncovers the historical, institutional and constitutional factors that have given rise to the conception of an antagonistic relationship between the judge and the regulatory agency in the US and of a harmonious one in the UK. The second part challenges the assumptions that have preserved the antagonistic/harmonious status quo and offers an alternative set of considerations that should inform judicial review of economic evidence based on the notion of relative institutional competence. The integration of comparative institutional analysis into the discussions on the appropriate scope of review of economic evidence invites the assessment of the relative attributes of both the regulatory agencies and the courts (and other actors) as well as the assessment of which of these institutions allows the broadest representation of interests before deciding on the appropriate degree of deference. By taking into account their relative institutional competence in resolving the question at issue, courts are found in a complementary relationship with the agency and the other actors within the regulatory space. The normative claim of the paper is that the insights of comparative institutional analysis offer a more informed view on the appropriate scope of review of economic evidence that is in line with institutional realities and determinants of judicial behavior. The descriptive claim is that there are instances in the US and UK case law that seem to support the attention to relative institutional competence considerations.

The seminar will take place from 13:00-14:00 in the Thomas Paine Study Centre, Room 1.2.

Policy Briefing: Consumer behaviour in the British retail electricity market

Policy Briefing of CCP Working Paper 13-10:

Flores M and Waddams Price C, ‘Consumer behaviour in the British retail electricity market’ (PDF, 759KB).


  • Consumer activity plays a crucial role in securing effective markets. Understanding what determines consumer activity, and how this varies between customers, is essential to maximise the effectiveness of policies targeting consumer searching and switching.

  • Despite government efforts to promote consumer activity, the European Commission finds that consumers often fail to take advantage of the potential gains available from switching suppliers in liberalised energy markets.

  • In the UK there is growing concern that the competition process has not worked well, despite the energy regulator’s promotion of consumer empowerment and activity.

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‘Extreme risk judgements and bank efficiency during the financial crisis: Implications for banking regulation’

The CCP seminar series returns for the Spring semester on Friday 10th January with a new programme of interdisciplinary presentations on competition and consumer policy. We kick-off this week with our Senior Research Associate Minyan Zhu (CCP) presenting her research on ‘Extreme risk judgements and bank efficiency during the financial crisis: Implications for banking regulation‘, which she has undertaken alongside Mette Asmild (University of Copenhagen). An abstract for her seminar can be found below.


The recent financial crisis highlighted how banks are exposed to risks arising specifically from their mixes of assets and sources of funding. In traditional assessments of bank efficiency, using Data Envelopment Analysis (DEA), banks are not only allowed to, but in effect also rewarded for, using extreme risk adjusted weights for the different input- and output factors. In this paper we propose a method of measuring bank efficiency, based on weight restricted DEA that limits the banks’ abilities to use extreme risk judgements.

Without a priori knowledge of ‘true’ risk levels, nor of a set of model banks whose weights can be imposed on all banks, we propose to use a range of allowable weights determined from the average weights across the efficient banks, in order to balance extreme judgements. Based on a data set comprising the largest European banks during the financial crisis, we illustrate the impact of the proposed weight restrictions in two different efficiency models; one related to the banks’ funding mix and one related to their asset mix. The results show that banks which were bailed out by their respective governments during the crisis are over-represented among those banks that are heavily affected by imposing these weight restrictions. This means that using a more balanced set of weights tend to reduce the estimated efficiency scores more for those banks that exhibited risky behaviour during the crisis, which confirms the potential bias within standard DEA which does not control for extreme weights applied by highly risky banks.

We also discuss the use of the proposed method as a regulatory tool to constrain discretion in complying with regulatory capital benchmarks such as the Basel regulatory capital ratios. Specifically the use of weight restrictions enables us to select a set of model banks and we suggest that these model banks’ internal estimates can be used as references to constrain the discretion in the choice of risk estimates (for instance, probability of default per rating grade) which are used to derive regulatory capital ratios. This will then reduce discretion in the derived capital ratios thus improving the effectiveness of the regulatory capital benchmarks.

The seminar will takes place from 13:00-14:00 in the Thomas Paine Study Centre, Room 1.4.

‘Unbundling the incumbent: Evidence from UK broadband’

On Friday 20th September, the CCP Seminar Series returns for the Autumn semester with another interdisciplinary line-up of presentations on competition policy and regulation.

To officially open proceedings, we are delighted to welcome Professor Tommaso Valletti (Imperial College London) who will be presenting his article on Unbundling the incumbent: Evidence from UK broadband‘ which he has written with Mattia Nardotto (University of Cologne) and Frank Verboven (University of Leuven). An abstract for his seminar can be found below.


We consider the impact of a regulatory process forcing an incumbent telecom operator to make its local broadband network available to other companies (local loop unbundling, or LLU). Entrants are then able to upgrade their individual lines and offer Internet services directly to customers. Employing a very detailed dataset covering the whole of the UK, we find that over the course of time, many entrants have begun to take advantage of LLU. However, unbundling has little or no effect on broadband penetration, compared to those areas where the loops are not unbundled. LLU entry instead has a strongly positive impact on the quality of the service provided, as entrants successfully differentiate their products upwards compared to the incumbent. We also assess the impact of competition from an alternative form of technology (cable) which is not subject to regulation, and what we discover is that inter-platform competition has a positive impact on both penetration and quality.

For further information on the CCP Seminar Series, including a programme of speakers for this semester, visit our website.

CCP Seminar: Two Surprises in Railways Restructuring

The CCP is delighted to welcome Russell Pittman (Antitrust Division, US Department of Justice) to the Centre this week. He will be revealing ‘Two Surprises in Railways Restructuring’ which is based on findings from 2 of his recent articles.  The seminar is to take place on Friday 17th May in Room 0.1 of the Thomas Paine Study Centre. An abstract for Russell’s seminar can be found below.


Policy analysts and scholars have devoted a great deal of attention in recent years to the roles of the old “natural monopoly” sectors in the economy.  As a result, both privatization and restructuring have been widely implemented, often with the goal of substituting competition for regulation where feasible – for example, in electricity generation, mobile telephony, and above-track railway operations.  This presentation reviews the main questions in these debates and then focuses on the railways sector, where very different reform strategies have been used on the two sides of the Atlantic, and where debates continue especially as one moves further east, with South Korea and Russia two prime examples.  These two countries exhibit two “surprises” for long-term participants in the debate:  1) Perhaps it is possible to create above-track competition in passenger operations, and 2) Perhaps there is an alternative locus for “vertical separation” besides that between trains and tracks.

Further reading:

Russell Pittman, ‘The freight railways of the former Soviet Union, twenty years on: Reforms lose steam’ (2013) 6 Research in Transportation Business & Management 99-115; available via SciVerse ScienceDirect.

Russell Pittman and Sunghee Choi, ‘The Economics of Railways Restructuring in South Korea’ (2013); Working Paper available via SSRN.

CCP Seminar: The rise (and rise?) of Regulatory Impact Assessment

This week’s CCP seminar takes place on Friday 26th April and sees John Turnpenny (PSI), a senior lecturer in Public Policy and Public Management at UEA, presenting his research on ‘The rise (and rise?) of Regulatory Impact Assessment‘. An abstract for his seminar can be found below.


The practice of Regulatory Impact Assessment has spread rapidly through the OECD and beyond, along with an associated academic literature.  This talk introduces ex-ante policy-level appraisal more generally, of which Regulatory Impact Assessment is but one, albeit very prominent, example.  It discusses the different types of research on policy appraisal.  Appraisal is undoubtedly an important site of political behaviour, with its own institutions, instruments and policy actors, and I investigate the growing interest in what might be termed the ‘policy and politics’ of policy appraisal.  I also discuss how policy appraisal works in practice, and some of the constraints to its application.  While there are signs that policy appraisal research is moving away from what might be termed a ‘technical-rational model’ of linear knowledge transfer between experts and policy-makers, both research and practice remain heavily informed by it.  Research and practice are interacting in subtle and surprising ways in this exciting and rapidly expanding field of public policy analysis.