Electricity market reform failures: UK, Norway, Alberta and California

Chi Keung Woo*, Debra Lloyd, Asher Tishler

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

145 Scopus citations


An analysis of electricity market reforms already taken place in the UK, Norway, Alberta (Canada) and California (USA) leads to our overall conclusion that the introduction of a competitive generation market, of itself, has failed to deliver reliable service at low and stable prices . The market reform failures are attributed to market power abuse by few dominant sellers (especially at times of transmission congestion), poor market design that invites strategic bidding by suppliers, the lack of customer response to price spikes, capacity shortage caused by demand growth not matched by new capacity, and thin trading of forward and futures contracts that are critical for price discovery and risk management. The paper then explains why an electricity market reform can easily fail to deliver the promised gains of better service at lower and more stable prices. The policy implication is that an electric market reform can be extremely risky, and may lead to a disastrous outcome. Thus, it is imprudent to implement such a reform in countries with limited sites for new generation and no indigenous fuels (e.g., Israel and Hong Kong). These countries should therefore consider introducing performance-based regulation that can immediately benefit electricity consumers in terms of lower prices, more stable prices, improved reliability, more choices, while encouraging the electric sector to pursue efficient operation and investment.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1103-1115
Number of pages13
JournalEnergy Policy
Issue number11
StatePublished - Sep 2003


  • Electricity market reform
  • Performance-based-regulation
  • Reform failures


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