Environmental externalities and regulation constrained cost productivity growth in the US electric utility industry

Gerald Granderson, Diego Prior

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticleResearchpeer-review

    14 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper examines whether having to comply with Phase 1 of Title IV of the 1990 Clean Air Act, and rate of return regulation, each impacted the rate of total factor productivity (TFP) growth when accounting for the production of good and bad outputs. Phase 1, effective from 1995 to 1999, requires electric utilities to reduce their emissions of sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxide (bad outputs). Actions undertaken to reduce the emissions (using less sulfur content coal, installing equipment), may have led to higher production costs, and impacted the rate of TFP growth. Rate regulation may impact how the firm produces its selected output level, which could lead to higher cost over time, and biased estimates of TFP growth. Following the work of Ball et al. (Struct Change Econ Dyn 16(3): 374-394, 2005), who developed the standard Malmquist cost productivity (MCP) index, we develop a MCP index for a rate regulated firm (RMCP index) then use the standard and regulated indices to determine whether having to comply with Phase 1 impacted TFP growth. Empirical results indicate that (i) the RMCP index underestimated the rate at which TFP growth occurred, (ii) Phase 1 utilities on average experienced positive TFP growth from 1996 to 2000 (Phase 1 firms experienced higher TFP growth rates than the rates experienced by firms not subject to Phase 1), and operated more allocatively inefficient in complying with the Phase 1 restrictions. Complying with Phase 1 did not affect the rate at which technical change occurred or the rates of change in scale efficiency. © 2012 Springer Science+Business Media, LLC.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)243-257
    JournalJournal of Productivity Analysis
    Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2013


    • Clean Air act
    • Productivity growth
    • Regulation


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