Monday, March 2, 2009

Design of electricity markets (and salute to Bob Wilson)

For roughly the retail price of 1200 kilowatt hours of electricity, you can buy the Elsevier book Competitive Electricity Markets: Design, Implementation, Performance . (It seems to have been out for almost a year, but I've just noticed it now...)

I haven't read it yet, but the first chapter looks worthwhile: it is by Hung-Po Chao, Shmuel Oren, and Robert Wilson, and is called "Reevaluation of Vertical Integration and Unbundling in Restructured Electricity Markets."

Bob Wilson is of course the dean of design, one of the pioneers not only of the design of electricity markets, but of auction design generally. Here are some of his papers. (And for those of you who come only recently to the economics biz, and don't know what a role model looks like, here is his cv.) Chao and Oren and Wilson seem to have published their first joint paper on electricity in 1986.

While I'm remembering, I'm reminded that Bob's students produced an online Festschrift in his honor in 2002, called Game Theory in the Tradition of Bob Wilson. Here are the first paragraphs of the introduction, which was written by Bengt Holmstrom, Paul Milgrom, and myself.

"One of the nicer events in academic life is when we pause to recognize a scholar whose work is unusually important and influential, whose work marks the start of a new tradition.

"When that scholar is also a great teacher and advisor, his students have the added pleasure of recalling his influence on them, and how it is reflected both in their own scholarship, and in how they teach and advise their own students. Students are the generations through which traditions are transmitted. This volume of selected published papers by Bob’s students, accompanied by new introductory essays, is a celebration of Bob’s tradition, by those of us who had the exceptional good fortune to receive it at first hand.

"And what is this tradition? Scholarship as varied and wide ranging as Bob’s defies easy characterization. He was among the first to recognize that it was going to be of the utmost importance for game theorists to understand how information is distributed and manipulated, concealed, and revealed. He was among the first to emphasize the importance in strategic calculations of players’ beliefs about what other players would do, even in situations that were not anticipated to arise. But what especially marks him as a leader among the great economists of his generation is his view of the role of theory. In his understated way, he wrote in the preface to his book Nonlinear Pricing: “The value of theory is its usefulness in addressing practical problems. . . ” And he went on to reflect on the role of practical problems in his own scholarly development: “. . . for the theorist, the problems encountered by practitioners provide a wealth of topics.”

"So, game theory in the tradition of Bob Wilson is game theory in the service of economics as a confident, practical, useful discipline. And research in the style of Bob Wilson is work that takes its inspiration not only from a wide reading and deep understanding of the work of other academics, but also from the ordinary stuff of economic life. In this spirit, Bob’s work has produced not only acute conceptual insights of great generality, but also advice about and solutions to knotty problems of strategy and design."

1 comment:

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