Abstract: Global Strategies and National Performance: Explaining the Singularities of the Spanish Electricity Supply Industry

Francesca Antolin


In this article I compare the contemporary trajectories of two managers who were pioneers and leaders of the electricity industry in their respective countries. One is Samuel Insull, who led the Chicago Edison Company in the United States, and the other is Juan Urrutia, creator of Hidroeléctrica Ibérica in Spain. The Chicago Edison Company was the world leader in many different fronts: managerial strategy, design and application of new technology, internal management, commercial policy, and establishment of a framework for the relationships between firms, financial systems and administration. Hidroeléctrica Ibérica was created in 1901, with the purpose of exploiting hydroelectricity resources, shortly after major advances in long-distance electricity transportation had been made. It immediately established itself as the leader of the electricity sector in Spain, a position it has maintained till the present due to the ambition of the initial project, the quality of the resources, and its strategy on various fronts. My generic purpose is to reflect on the complexities of the evolution of large technological systems, which are subject to a wide variety of conditioning elements, on both the demand and the supply sides. More specifically, I would like to understand what are the degrees of freedom which remain open to a follower, by how much he can adapt his strategies to special circumstances, once the world leader has shown a path. As part of that, I will look at the differences of context and its consequences on the economic logic applied by Juan Urrutia when making policy decisions that seem to differ from the best entrepreneurial practice of the period, as defined by Insull.

BEH On-Line Paper