Electricity has over the last 50 years been recognised as a natural
monopoly, with almost universal operation as a vertically
integrated state owned enterprise or as a private firm with public
regulation. Since the 1980's combined cycle gas turbine and smart
metering technologies have ushered in very powerful forces which
have increasingly led to separation of the industry into a
competitive generation and a retail supply sector and a regulated
network natural monopoly sector. Whilst privatisation has been seen
as a necessary condition for efficiency improvements it is
competition which has provided the necessary incentive for
increased efficiency gains and the maximisation of consumer
welfare. The result is that new institutional forms; single buyer,
wholesale bulk electricity market and retail competition have
transformed the industry's landscape. There are however, strong
vertical economies which continue to present problems of market
power, despite physical separation. Governments however are now
presented with new institutional policy options to better shape the
future of the industry.
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