Friday, June 26, 2009

Peak-Load Pricing

Pelican Brewery in Pacific City, Oregon is among the very best Oregon breweries (as evidenced by their many, many national and international awards) and yet it is very hard to find their beers in the store. This something that I wondered about: why aren't they more available in Portland (and other parts of Oregon)?

An answer immediately suggests itself when one visits the brewery. It is located at a wonderful spot on the coast, but Pacific City is a little out of the way as it is off US 101 a bit. It is also on the Oregon coast which is wonderful in summer but can in winter. One expects then that they have a familiar problem in economics: a fixed supply capacity (the brewery) and a variable demand. Electric utilities are the most common example given of this: there is high demand during the day and low demand overnight. For Pelican, one imagines that they sell lots of beer during the summer and have a lot of excess capacity in the winter. So they could increase capacity to sell more bottles in Portland but this would potentially exacerbate the overcapacity in the winter (or may not if demand for bottles is seasonal in the other way).

The economics answer to this problem is what is known as peak-load pricing, an extra charge for buying at a peak time. Perhaps Pelican should charge $6 for pints in May-October and $3 in November-April, for example. This would even out the demand during these periods and help solve the excess capacity problem.

Okay, so perhaps this is a bit fanciful, but I sure hope to find more Pelican Beer in Portland, it is great stuff.

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