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Working paper / Electricity

Managing the liberalization of Italy’s retail electricity market : a policy proposal

Author(s): AMENTA Carlo, DI CROCE Giulia, LAVECCHIA Luciano, STAGNARO Carlo

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ABSTRACT

Italy will phase electricity retail price regulation by July 1st, 2020. This is the last step in the process of electricity market liberalization, that started in 1999. Until then, residential customers and small businesses who do not choose their supplier, will be supplied under a transitional, regulated service named “maggior tutela” (greater protection), which is supplied by the local distributor at a price set by the regulator. This paper reviews the literature on electricity retail competition – with particular regard to its expected effects on prices, innovation and customer engagement – and the condition under which its benefits may be delivered. Then a Structure-Conduct-Performance analysis of Italy’s retail electricity market for residential customers is performed. Two issues are found to be potentially problematic: excessive market concentration and low customer engagement. Energy poverty is also identified as an issue to be addressed. A phase-out mechanism is finally proposed, that relies on graduality, asymmetric regulation and a mandatory, opt-out collective switching exercise. The mechanism aims to rapidly reducing market concentration by leveraging on behavioral incentives to customers still under regulated prices to switch to the cheapest supplier.