In plain sight: The rise of state coordination and fall of liberalised markets in the United Kingdom power sector

Aug 1, 2023

The resurgence of state coordination in the UK’s electricity industry represents an institutional paradigm shift, unfolding without sufficient political reckoning. The UK has progressively unbundled the system operator from the transmission company to develop a “whole system” perspective for planning, coordinate infrastructure development, and to redraw the contours of electricity markets. A public system operator is the culmination of a decade-long process that ends reliance solely on the market with new modes of state coordination. The institutional reforms are not just market adjustments, nor only an increase in regulation. New forms of non-market industrial coordination have resulted from creative institutional learning and organisational speciation. The article reviews the legacy of privatisation and brings to light an expanding ecosystem of non-market, public, and hybrid agencies that now coordinate the electricity industry with aims of decarbonisation. Although, the UK’s electricity industry is the case most clearly associated with neoliberal reforms, this liberalisation first and the reemergence of coordination now are not unique to the country. Thus, this article provides an analytical framework to describe the increased reliance on state coordination and the demise of “market only” electricity governance globally.

Publication details
Net zero & sustainable development
Research paper
Valenzuela, Jose Maria
Energy Research & Social Science

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