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Since the 1990s, efficiency and benchmarking analysis has increasingly been used in network utilities research and regulation. A recurrent concern is the effect of environmental factors that are beyond the influence of firms (observable heterogeneity) and factors that are not identifiable (unobserved heterogeneity) on measured cost and quality performance of firms. This paper analyses the effect of geographic and weather factors and unobserved heterogeneity on a set of 128 Norwegian electricity distribution utilities for the 2001-2004 period. The authors utilize data on almost 100 geographic and weather variables to identify real economic inefficiency while controlling for observable and unobserved heterogeneity.
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