Network Access Charges, Vertical Integration, and Property Rights Structure
After the deregulation of the German electricity markets in 1998, the German government opted for a regulatory regime called negotiated third party access, which would be subject to ex post control by the federal cartel office. Network access charges for new competitors are based on contractual arrangements between energy producers and industrial consumers. As the electricity networks are incontestable natural monopolies, the local and regional network operators are able to set (monopolistic) charges at their own discretion, limited only by their concerns over possible interference by the federal cartel office (Bundeskartellamt). In this paper we analyse if there is evidence for varying charging behaviour depending on a supplier`s economic independence (structure of property rights) or its level of vertical integration. For this purpose we hypothesise that incorporated and vertically integrated suppliers set different charges than independent utility companies. Multivariate estimations show a relation between network access charges and the network operator’s economic independence as well as level of vertical integration. On the low voltage level, for an estimated annual consumption of 1700 kW/h, vertically integrated firms set – as predicted by our hypothesis - significantly lower access charges than vertically separated suppliers, whereas incorporated network operators charge significantly higher charges compared to independent suppliers. There is insufficient evidence available to confirm these results for other consumptions or voltage levels.