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Incumbents in transition? The role of the 'Big Six' energy companies in the UK

Kattirtzi, M; Ketsopoulou, I; Watson, J; (2021) Incumbents in transition? The role of the 'Big Six' energy companies in the UK. Energy Policy , 148 , Article 111927. 10.1016/j.enpol.2020.111927.

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Abstract

Amid rapid changes to energy systems around the world, there has been ongoing debate regarding incumbent actors' ability to respond to disruptive forces. This paper investigates the corporate strategies of the UK's large vertically integrated energy companies (the ‘Big Six’) between 2008 and 2016. Four of these companies are part of international groups, with parent companies in Germany, France and Spain. By analysing data from publicly available documents and a small number of key informant interviews with current and former decision-makers within Big Six companies and other stakeholders, this paper assesses their responses to three potentially disruptive changes to the UK's electricity sector: decarbonisation, decentralisation and digitalisation. Each of the Big Six have taken significant steps towards decarbonisation, with some progressing faster than others. Most have remained committed to centralised generation investments, and a couple have made early moves towards digital retail products and services but with limited impact thus far. The authors conclude that the UK's incumbent electricity firms have shown that they are able to adapt given strong policy incentives. Policy-makers should continue to set ambitious targets for the electricity sector, while taking into account the role of international parent companies in driving a broader strategy.

Type: Article
Title: Incumbents in transition? The role of the 'Big Six' energy companies in the UK
DOI: 10.1016/j.enpol.2020.111927
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.enpol.2020.111927
Language: English
Additional information: This version is the author accepted manuscript. For information on re-use, please refer to the publisher’s terms and conditions.
Keywords: Incumbents, Big Six, Power sector, Decarbonisation, Decentralisation, Digitalisation
UCL classification: UCL
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > UCL BEAMS > Faculty of the Built Environment > Bartlett School Env, Energy and Resources
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10111493
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