In-depth analysis of the nature and methods of electricity regulation

I. Electricity Management, Regulation and Supervision

The government's management of the power industry is a dynamic process. At different times, the government showed different emphasis on the management, regulation and supervision of the power industry. Management, regulation, and supervision are the three closely related terms that have their own emphasis. In general, management is a relatively broad concept, referring to the various relations between the government and the company or industry in the process of exercising administrative power. In the early stage of power development, electricity has not yet formed a large network, and has not yet had a fundamental or overall impact like this. The government's management of electricity is roughly similar to that of general goods, and generally does not interfere with the operation of electric power companies. behavior. At this stage, the government's control of the power industry is more reflected in the general sense of administrative management.

With the development of electric power and its wide application, electric power has gradually become an important basic industry that affects the overall situation. Especially when electricity forms a huge network, its monopoly characteristics have begun to become prominent, and the government has further strengthened its control over electric power. The traditional way of the power industry is the separation of government and enterprise. The relationship between the government and the enterprise is a vertical, subordinate relationship. The enterprise behavior is an extension of the government's will. Although the government does not directly intervene in the management of enterprises, it has achieved the purpose of controlling enterprises and industries through the core links of management access, pricing, and even power distribution. The characteristics of this stage are mainly manifested in the government's planned regulation.

The essence of planning regulation is to rely on the government's power to promote the development and operation of the power industry. In the period of rapid socio-economic development, its advantages are obvious. For example, during the 50s-60s of the 20th century, the development of large-scale, capital-intensive, integrated, and intensive electricity companies was achieved thanks to government asylum (such as the adoption of cost-plus-based pricing policies). Priority development has brought about economies of scale, demonstrating the effectiveness of the government in safeguarding public interests and promoting economic development.

However, there are inherent flaws in the way the plan is controlled. Under the government's control, the enterprise's own vitality is not enough, and there is no internal motivation to increase efficiency, reduce costs, and improve service. This kind of defect makes the electricity industry in the 1980s and 1990s. In the developed countries, there is a general problem of stagflation in power development: On the one hand, over-expansion of electricity leads to serious oversupply of electricity, inefficiency and waste; The high fixed cost caused by the expansion has pushed up the price of electricity and has been widely criticized by the public. As a result, the traditional approach to planning regulation is facing unprecedented reform pressures and it is necessary to find power management methods that can promote competition.

The reform of the electricity market that began more than two decades ago has given rise to the reform of the modern electricity regulatory system. The purpose of the reform is to redefine the relationship between the government, the enterprise, and the market. The supervision emphasizes the market's main body position of the enterprise, recognizes and allows the production price to fluctuate, and the government's management focuses on regulating and maintaining market fairness and order. In the United States, Britain, and other countries, this process is also called "deregulation," which means that the government's administrative measures must be ordered from the control of electricity, and maximize the role of the market mechanism.

Supervision, as a power management method that corresponds to market competition, has the essential characteristics of law and independence. "According to the law" highlights that the institutional basis for the supervisory authority to exercise its powers is market rules and regulations, not policies. Under the framework of laws and regulations, regulators exercise supervision over the qualifications and behaviors of market players and maintain market order and market equity. As long as there are no violations of laws and regulations, the regulatory agencies should not interfere too much. Supervision according to law is also a process of advancing the institutionalization, standardization and proceduralization of supervision work. Although this has to some extent constrained the discretionary powers of the regulatory agencies, it is precisely because of this that supervision has become an important line of defense to ensure fair market competition and safeguard the rights of market players and the general public.

"Independence" is another essential feature of regulation. In the traditional power management methods, the government often uses administrative methods instead of professional principles for the needs of policies, making it difficult for the system environment for power development to meet the needs of scientific development. In order to improve their supervisory capabilities, some countries have established “independent” regulatory agencies outside the traditional government departments. They independently perform their duties under the law and make institutional arrangements in terms of subordination, personnel arrangements, and funding sources. Some countries require supervisors to implement the tenure system and are not replaced by replacements of government candidates; some countries require that regulators’ funds come from the “supervisory fees” of market entities rather than government funding to weaken the government’s regulatory authority. Intervention. This series of institutional arrangements enables the regulatory agencies to give full play to their professional expertise and to ensure the continued and stable operation of the power market. The “legal” and “independent” supervisions are not subject to the government's phased policies, and they evaluate and supervise the government's policies. They form a power structure and an operational mechanism that are mutually restrictive and coordinated at the level of government governance.

Second, the source of regulatory functions

Establishing a modern and independent regulatory system is a process. Under the circumstances where the government’s administrative management still occupies a dominant position, the supervisory function comes from where it comes from. This is an important issue that is placed before the design and practice of the regulatory system. Judging from the laws of the development of regulatory systems in various countries in the world and the trend of China's power reform, the functions of power regulatory agencies should come from the following three aspects.

The first is to disaggregate from the general management of the government. Under the traditional system, the government has a comprehensive function of power management, including macro management and market supervision functions. After the reform of the power system, government departments and regulatory agencies must divide the work rationally. In the long-term management practice, the government has formed a relatively stable structure of power and administrative resources. To realize the lawful and independent supervision, the government must act as the “first driving force” and will directly interfere with the power production and management through administrative means for a long time. Right control is in the right scope and it is also right for real market players. It is necessary to transfer the right to formulate rules governing enterprises or industry activities to regulatory agencies to ensure that the supervision is effective, effective, and efficient. Another point is to believe in the role of the market. The project approval methods, electricity pricing mechanism, and electricity distribution under the planned control should allow the market to play a greater role. In this regard, there are already relatively mature foreign experiences and measures that can be used for reference. The government management activities generally have a strong institutional inertia. At present, some of the perplexities and problems faced by China's electric power supervision reflect this issue. Therefore, the government itself needs to further accelerate its reform.

The second is derived from market development. From the perspective of jurisprudence, the starting point of supervision is to ensure the fair and orderly operation of the market and promote the healthy development of the market. In this process, regulators shoulder important responsibilities such as market access, market cultivation, establishment of a virtuous market mechanism, and prevention of market risks. The development of the market will generate a large number of institutional requirements and require regulatory agencies to respond. For example, in establishing a market mechanism, it is necessary to formulate market rules, specify market transaction patterns, regulate the rights, obligations, and legal responsibilities of market entities; in terms of ensuring fair competition and market order, it is necessary to strengthen information disclosure, supervise and regulate the trading links, and ensure the power grid. The fair and open; in the prevention of market risks, monitor market forces, design price ceilings, and establish risk management mechanisms such as power forward contracts and power futures and options. These functions are the new institutional and management requirements arising from market development and are the inevitable requirements for the development of the market. Whenever the electricity market develops to a new stage and field, the supervision function must be updated and improved in time to meet new situations and requirements.

The third is to extract from the needs of market players. The reasonable demand of the market players is an important starting point and focus of the power supervision work. The common issues extracted from them have risen to the level of the regulatory system and have formed corresponding supervision functions. In particular, after the separation of factories and networks, the regulatory needs of the market players in the factory network interface gave birth to a number of regulatory regulations. The interface of the factory network is unclear and non-standard and forms some “gray zones.” Because the supporting reforms are not in place, some public service functions in the power industry (such as grid access and dispatch transactions are the public functions of the industry) are still Power grid companies exercised, and some companies used these “soft powers” ​​to exert influence on power generation companies. In recent years, electric power regulatory agencies have established systems for information disclosure, contract filing, regulatory interviews, supervision reports, and institutionalized factory network joint meetings in response to contradictions on the interface of the factory's network. They have comprehensively used information rights, disclosure rights, evaluation rights, etc. The measures have promoted the market's standardization and order, achieved good results, and gained approval from market players. Through the improvement of openness and transparency, the use of institutionalized “sunshine” supervision will limit the “soft power” of monopoly enterprises.

Third, the concept of supervision and the main way

Regulation is not an end in itself, but a means of modern governance. The "Twelfth Five-Year Plan" proposal adopted by the Fifth Plenary Session has determined the guiding ideology for accelerating the transformation of economic development methods. It has important guiding significance for us to establish a scientific concept of electric power supervision.

To establish a scientific supervision concept, we must respect market mechanisms and market players, and ensure that the supervision is “fair, efficient, and transparent” in accordance with market rules. The regulatory agency must exercise its right to know, disclose, evaluate and adjudicate, and be a supervisor, commentator, and referee for market operations. Regulators should be able to fully and systematically grasp the operation and development status of the entire power industry and supervise the implementation of national policies by the power industry. Regarding violations of law and regulations, according to the administrative enforcement powers granted by the state, timely judgments are made to standardize market order and promote harmonious development. To establish a scientific concept of supervision, efforts should be made to improve supervision methods, which are highlighted in the following aspects:

1, make market access.

It is an important responsibility of the supervisory organization to ensure good market access. The key lies in respecting the market's dominant position in the enterprise, treating all market entities in line with national policies equally, adhering to an equitable regulatory policy, and ensuring that market players have fair competition opportunities.

From a regulatory point of view, there are three main types of market access that can be adopted: First, the way the market is registered. The registration criteria are uniform and open, and the registration process is predictable, observable and supervisable. The implementation of registration can be carried out by a neutral organization, and the regulatory body is responsible for setting the entry criteria. Through the market registration mechanism, it is conducive to cultivating awareness of market entities for power companies and users, and is conducive to raising the regulatory awareness of regulatory agencies. The second is the way of registration and filing. Neither the government nor the regulatory agency can become a part of the power company's production and operation decision-making. The company's main status and decision-making power are protected by the market rules. The activities are carried out independently within the scope of laws and regulations, and the creativity of market players is brought into play to stimulate market vitality. Through the registration and filing system, the regulatory agency can incorporate the behavior of market players into observable scope, and achieve the purpose of pre-warning and post-regulation supervision. The third is the necessary administrative license. In order to maintain the stability of the electric power industry and form a good market operating environment, it is necessary to conduct pre-censorship of the subjects engaged in electric power activities. However, unlike traditional administrative approvals, the regulatory agencies should maintain equal distances with the enterprises. They should not set selective administrative licenses and reduce the review link as much as possible.

2. Exercise the right to formulate rules.

The right to formulate rules is the basic responsibility of the supervisory authority to independently supervise according to law. Formulating rules is not the same as formulating policies, policies can be driven by situations, and rules must be relatively stable and sustainable. The process of rulemaking is a process of balancing the interests of various parties. It requires that the rule-makers must first be independent and fair. Judging from international practice, it is not controversial for regulators to make rules. According to the situation in our country, there are two main ways of formulating rules: One is the top-down approach. It is usually led by the regulatory agency and organizes the development of relevant rules in accordance with the direction and goals of market development. The rules, ideas and objectives formulated in this way are unified and clear, and the content is relatively systematic and comprehensive. However, relevant policies and measures are often required. The other is the bottom-up approach. After various trading activities that are spontaneously formed by the market, after the market players have milled and reached a certain consensus, they need to be standardized and institutionalized in the form of rules. For example, in recent years, the flexible trading rules on some regional platforms that I will approve in succession fall predominantly in this way. This approach is flexible and operable. In practice, these two methods should be combined and complement each other. The latter is the basis for exploration and practice of the former, and the former is the refinement and generalization of the latter.

3. Establish a regulatory evaluation mechanism.

The right to evaluate is an important function of the regulatory body. The first is to evaluate and give feedback on the development and operation of the power industry. The regulatory agency evaluates corporate behavior and industry development from an external perspective and publishes evaluation reports to achieve the purpose of regulating corporate behavior and guiding the development of the industry. The regulatory agency can also make an objective assessment of the effectiveness and subsequent impact of the country's relevant policy implementation, form a feedback mechanism for government decision-making, and better play a supervisory and coordination function. The second is to weaken the soft power of the monopoly link to the competition. In some “grey zones”, the jurisdiction of supervision is often difficult to exercise due to lack of compliance, and the exercise of evaluation power can be used to make the issue explicit, and it can be jointly supervised and judged by the entire industry or society, which is conducive to perfecting legislation and promoting reforms. . Therefore, based on the current status of China's power enterprise property rights system, regulatory agencies exercise reasonable evaluation rights, not only the regulatory cost is low, but also very effective. To establish a regulatory evaluation mechanism, one must attach importance to the acquisition of information. The regulatory agency has the right to obtain the necessary information necessary for the operation of the relationship market, industry development, and social supervision. No company or entity may refuse or hinder the regulatory agency from obtaining information according to law. Second, we must pay attention to analysis and argumentation. Since it is in the transitional period, the improvement of the law lags behind. In reality, there are situations such as "reasonable and unlawful" and "legal and unreasonable." In this regard, it is necessary to stand at the height of reform and development and carry out rational and objective analysis and demonstration. . Third, we must pay attention to the evaluation report release. Only when the release of the evaluation report is completed can the closed-loop operation of the regulatory evaluation mechanism be realized. However, the published links are often the most concerned and therefore will encounter certain resistance. This imposes higher requirements on the principled and strategic capabilities of regulatory agencies.

4, improve the referee mechanism.

Exercising the jurisdiction is a concrete manifestation of the administration of administration by the regulatory agencies. Unlike the judiciary, the supervisory agency is an active "referee." When a violation is found, the supervisory authority takes the initiative to make a ruling. Regulators need to learn the rules, identify violations and make decisions based on rules. The three elements needed to improve the refereeing mechanism are: First, rules, which are the basis of the referees. Only referees based on good rules can receive good results. Otherwise, they may be counter-productive. The second is “whistle blowing”. The accuracy and timelyness of the whistling whistle depends on the building of the regulatory agency’s own capabilities. The negative impact of the low-level whistle of “referees” on the market order is far greater than that of the “athlete”. The third is to “pass the card”, that is, to test the enforcement capacity of the regulatory agencies. However, the current lags in the revision of relevant laws will, to some extent, affect the law enforcement power of the regulatory agencies. Therefore, to improve the adjudication mechanism, it is necessary to continuously strengthen the capacity of the regulatory agency itself, and it is also necessary to continuously improve the regulatory legislation and improve the legal basis for supervision.

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