Journal of Productivity Analysis

, Volume 23, Issue 2, pp 245–273 | Cite as

Economic Efficiency and Productivity Growth in the Post-Privatization Chilean Hydroelectric Industry

  • Scott E. Atkinson
  • Claudia Elizabeth Halabí


Chile’s hydroelectric industry was privatized in 1985, but required to operate within a regulatory framework designed to achieve a competitive outcome. A centralized dispatch center was established to ensure production at minimum cost, subject to constraints on minimum release and minimum reservoir stock. A reluctance to rapidly reduce the industry work force may also have existed. We develop a constrained cost-minimization model for thermal and hydro generation to obtain the shadow price of water and to determine the qualitative effect of these constraints on allocative efficiency. Using panel data from 1986–1997, we assess the economic efficiency of the hydro industry by estimating a stochastic distance frontier and price equations from the dual cost-minimization problem. We find dramatic increases in technical change and productivity change, with positive efficiency change for all years but the last. We also observe a dramatic decline in allocative inefficiencies over our sample period. The share of hydro generation from run-of-river and thermal plants relative to reservoir plants has increased, presumably in reaction to the water release and reservoir stock constraints, reducing the relative over-utilization of capital to water from the pre-1985 regime. Further, the over-utilization of labor to capital and water has fallen over time. However, considerable allocative inefficiencies remain, consistent with our finding of industry-wide scale economies. Substantial cost savings would result if technical and allocative efficiency were eliminated.


distance function estimation technical change productivity change allocative efficiency Chilean hydroelectric generation 


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, Inc. 2005

Authors and Affiliations

  • Scott E. Atkinson
    • 1
  • Claudia Elizabeth Halabí
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of EconomicsUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  2. 2.School of BusinessUniversidad Santo TomásSantiagoChile

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