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Learning-by-Doing and the Optimal Solar Policy in California

Arthur van Benthem, Kenneth Gillingham and James Sweeney

Year: 2008
Volume: Volume 29
Number: Number 3
DOI: 10.5547/ISSN0195-6574-EJ-Vol29-No3-7
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Abstract:
Much policy attention has been given to promote fledgling energy technologies that promise to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. These policies often aim to correct market failures, such as environmental externalities and learning�by-doing (LBD). We examine the implications of the assumption that LBD exists, quantifying the market failure due to LBD. We develop a model of technological advancement based on LBD and environmental market failures to examine the economically efficient level of subsidies in California�s solar photovoltaic market. Under central-case parameter estimates, including nonappropriable LBD, we find that maximizing net social benefits implies a solar subsidy schedule similar in magnitude to the recently implemented California Solar Initiative. This result holds for a wide range of LBD parameters. However, with no LBD, the subsidies cannot be justified by the environmental externality alone.



Split Incentives in Residential Energy Consumption

Kenneth Gillingham, Matthew Harding, and David Rapson

Year: 2012
Volume: Volume 33
Number: Number 2
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.33.2.3
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Abstract:
We explore two split incentive issues between owners and occupants of residential dwellings: heating or cooling incentives are suboptimal when the occupant does not pay for energy use, and insulation incentives are suboptimal when the occupant cannot perfectly observe the owner's insulation choice. We empirically quantify the effect of these two market failures and how they affect behavior in California. We find that those who pay are 16 percent more likely to change the heating setting at night and owner-occupied dwellings are 20 percent more likely to be insulated in the attic or ceiling. However, in contrast to common conception, we find that only small overall energy savings may be possible from policy interventions aimed at correcting the split incentive issues. Keywords: Principal-agent, Asymmetric information, CO2 emissions



Deconstructing Solar Photovoltaic Pricing

Kenneth Gillingham, Hao Deng, Ryan Wiser, Naim Darghouth, Gregory Nemet, Galen Barbose, Varun Rai, and Changgui Dong

Year: 2016
Volume: Volume 37
Number: Number 3
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.37.3.kgil
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Abstract:
Solar photovoltaic (PV) system prices in the United States display considerable heterogeneity both across geographic locations and within a given location. Such heterogeneity may arise due to state and federal policies, differences in market structure, and other factors that influence demand and costs. This paper examines the relative importance of such factors on equilibrium solar PV system prices in the United States using a detailed dataset of roughly 100,000 recent residential and small commercial installations. As expected, we find that PV system prices differ based on characteristics of the systems. More interestingly, we find evidence suggesting that search costs and imperfect competition affect solar PV pricing. Installer density substantially lowers prices, while regions with relatively generous financial incentives for solar PV are associated with higher prices.



Is Abundant Natural Gas a Bridge to a Low-carbon Future or a Dead-end?

Kenneth Gillingham and Pei Huang

Year: 2019
Volume: Volume 40
Number: Number 2
DOI: 10.5547/01956574.40.2.kgil
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Abstract:
A fierce debate rages on whether abundant natural gas is a bridge to a low-carbon future or a hindrance to long-term decarbonization. This paper uses a detailed energy-economic market equilibrium model to study the effects of an upper bound case of natural gas availability. We show that a market-driven abundant natural gas supply can provide substantial reductions in air pollution but does not considerably reduce CO2 emissions in the longer-term, especially relative to a moderate carbon price. However, we quantify large welfare benefits from abundant natural gas. The spatial disaggregation of our results allows for a clear picture of the distributional impacts of abundant natural gas under different carbon price scenarios, illustrating welfare gains by most regions regardless of whether there is carbon pricing, but substantial heterogeneity in the welfare gains.





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