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New Labour, energy policy and 'competitive markets'

Ian Rutledge
Cambridge Journal of Economics
Vol. 31, No. 6 (November 2007), pp. 901-925
Published by: Oxford University Press
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23601864
Page Count: 25
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New Labour, energy policy and 'competitive markets'
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Abstract

By the end of New Labour's first term four central objectives of energy policy had become established: 'cheap' energy, the relief of fuel poverty, a major reduction of carbon dioxide emissions, and energy security through maintaining a wide diversity of primary fuel supplies, all to be achieved through 'competition'. After surveying New Labour energy policy documents, the paper argues that New Labour failed to appreciate (i) the extent to which, under such a laissez faire policy regime, these objectives were mutually inconsistent; (ii) that the apparent successes of energy market liberalisation during the preceding Conservative Governments had little to do with 'competition'; and (iii) that the transaction costs of injecting increasing 'competition' into both British and European energy systems are likely to exacerbate the growing threat to energy security. The paper concludes with a brief examination of the implications of transaction cost economics for the organisational structure of the UK energy supply industry.

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