Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Department of Accounting and Finance - Faculty of Commerce
Spence, Cecilia, The regulation of energy utilities based on depreciated optimised replacement cost (DORC), valuation of assets, PhD thesis, Department of Accounting and Finance, University of Wollongong, 2004. http://ro.uow.edu.au/theses/216
This study was prompted by the 1988 introduction by the Commonwealth Government, and later on by both Federal and State regulators, of a philosophy of wanting to achieve a target rate of return within the public sector to emulate private sector efficiency. At the core of the reforms was the adoption of replacement values for assets. This resulted in inflated prices to the users of public services and regulated monopoly assets such as energy utilities, while asset owners enjoyed windfall gains. In developing a form of regulation for natural monopolies the regulators initially looked to Accounting. However Finance Economics provided a structure called the Building Block approach to regulation that had at its center the notion of Depreciated Optimised Replacement Cost (DORC). Capture by Finance Economics, has meant that regulation has developed under the rules of Net Present Value based on the DORC value for assets. Net Present Value calculations are based on the timing and amounts of future cash transactions. This is the meat of regulation. The regulators have addressed the problem of circularity by developing a notion of Optimised Replacement Cost (ORC), and calling on the notion of Tobins Q to transform ORC to ORC used, or DORC. Deprival Value has been endorsed as a valuation principle by the Council Of Australian Governments; however Deprival Value conflicts with DORC in the valuation of sunk assets. This research has critically examined the regulators use of DORC and its inherent circularity and finds that DORC is a flawed concept. It is argued that actual or previously agreed values for assets would produce a better regulatory outcome and fairer prices for consumers. The International Financial Reporting Standards contain in their 2003 Framework notions of Fair Value and Capital Maintenance that address the aims of the regulators and are compatible with Deprival Value. Audited financial reports based on the regulators approved asset valuations and prepared in accordance with International Standards would provide cohesion between regulatory decisions and the financial results of natural monopoly companies.