NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
NATIONAL BUREAU OF ECONOMIC RESEARCH
loading...

The Electric Gini: Income Redistribution through Energy Prices

Arik Levinson, Emilson Silva

NBER Working Paper No. 26385
Issued in October 2019
NBER Program(s):Environment and Energy Program

Efficient electricity pricing involves two-part tariffs: a volumetric price equal to the marginal cost of producing an additional kilowatt hour (kWh) and a fixed fee to cover any remaining fixed costs. In this paper we explore how US electricity regulators depart from this simple two-part tariff to address concerns about income inequality. We first show that in theory, price setters concerned about inequality will charge lower fixed monthly fees and higher per-kWh prices, and increasing block prices to target higher users with even higher prices. Then we use a new dataset of 1,300 utilities across the US to show that these theoretical predictions are borne out in practice. Utilities whose ratepayers have more unequal incomes levy more redistributive tariffs, charging less to low users and more to high users. To quantify these comparisons, we develop a new measure of the redistributive extent of utility tariffs that we call the “electric Gini.” Utilities with higher electric Ginis (more redistributive tariffs) shift costs from households that use relatively little electricity to households that use more. But because electricity use is only loosely correlated with income, that redistribution does not meaningfully shift costs from households with low incomes to those with high incomes.

You may purchase this paper on-line in .pdf format from SSRN.com ($5) for electronic delivery.

Access to NBER Papers

You are eligible for a free download if you are a subscriber, a corporate associate of the NBER, a journalist, an employee of the U.S. federal government with a ".GOV" domain name, or a resident of nearly any developing country or transition economy.

If you usually get free papers at work/university but do not at home, you can either connect to your work VPN or proxy (if any) or elect to have a link to the paper emailed to your work email address below. The email address must be connected to a subscribing college, university, or other subscribing institution. Gmail and other free email addresses will not have access.

E-mail:

Machine-readable bibliographic record - MARC, RIS, BibTeX

Document Object Identifier (DOI): 10.3386/w26385

 
Publications
Activities
Meetings
NBER Videos
Themes
Data
People
About

National Bureau of Economic Research, 1050 Massachusetts Ave., Cambridge, MA 02138; 617-868-3900; email: info@nber.org

Contact Us