Environmental, energy, and ecological problems have grown faster than their solutions. Economists have an important role to play to address these issues by using the latest science, rigorous methods and innovative policy solutions. The SWEEEP webinar series aims to convene the academic community to contribute to the scientific, economic, and policy discourses on important environmental and energy issues.
SWEEEP are a joint initiative by the European Institute on Economics and the Environment, the Energy Management research team at the Grenoble Ecole de Management, the ZEW – Leibniz Centre for European Economic Research, and the Centre for Energy Policy and Economics at ETH Zurich.
Wednesday, 16 September 2020, 3.00-4.00 PM CET
Enforcement in service delivery: Smart meters and the returns to electricity quality improvements
Speaker: Robyn Meeks, Duke University
Abstract: Poor service quality and theft are challenges common to the electricity sector in developing countries. Smart meters provide additional information to both consumers and utilities, potentially mitigating these challenges. In a randomized experiment in Kyrgyzstan, smart meters replaced houses’ old meters. Post-intervention electricity service quality was significantly better among the treatment group relative to the control group. Consumers’ returns to electricity quality improvements were substantial. Treated households’ peak electricity consumption and expenditures on electric appliances increased, consistent with an improvement in consumer welfare. The utility benefits from the meters, via increased billed consumption and bill payment, albeit less than consumers do.
Wednesday, 14 October 2020, 3.00-4.00 PM CET
Use and Non-Use Value of Nature and the Social Cost of Carbon
Speaker: Frances Moore, UC Davis, Bernie Bastien
Abstract: Climate change is damaging ecosystems throughout the world with serious implications for human well-being. Quantifying the benefits of reducing emissions requires understanding these costs but the unique and non-market nature of many goods provided by natural systems makes them difficult to value. Detailed representation of ecological damages in models used to calculate the costs of greenhouse gas emissions has been largely lacking. Here we include natural capital as a form of wealth in a cost-benefit integrated assessment model and show that accounting for the use and non-use value of nature has large implications for climate policy. In our model, optimal emissions reach zero at the year 2050, limiting warming to 1.5◦C by the end of the century, substantially lower than the standard model, which approaches 3°C by 2100. We show that the cost of climate change could be alleviated by investments in natural capital and that capturing the effect of climate change on natural systems and the welfare effects of these changes should be a high priority for future research.
Wednesday, 21 October 2020, 3.00-4.00 PM CET
Title: Optimal fuel taxation with suboptimal health choices
Speaker: Linus Mattauch, U Oxford
Abstract: Transport has a large number of significant externalities including carbon emissions, air pollution, accidents and congestion. Increased active travel such as cycling and walking can reduce these externalities. Moreover, public health research has identified large additional social gains from active travel due to health benefits of increased physical exercise. We introduce health benefits and active travel options into a model of transport externalities to study appropriate policy responses. We characterise the optimal second-best fuel tax analytically: when physical exercise is considered welfare-enhancing, the optimal fuel tax increases. Under our central assumptions, the increase is 34% in the US and 38% in the UK when health benefits from physical exercise are included. We argue that fuel taxes should be implemented jointly with other policies aimed at increasing the uptake of active travel to reap the full health benefits.
Wednesday, 28 October 2020, 3.00-4.00 PM CET
Title: Mandatory Energy Efficiency Disclosure in Housing Markets
Speaker: Erica Myers, U Illinois Urbana-Champaign
Abstract: Mandatory disclosure policies are implemented broadly despite sparse evidence that they improve market outcomes. We study the effects of requiring home sellers to provide buyers with certified audits of residential energy efficiency. Using similar nearby homes as a comparison group, we find this requirement increases price premiums for energy efficiency and encourages energy-saving investments. We additionally present evidence highlighting the market failure – incomplete information by both buyers and sellers – that prevents widespread voluntary disclosure of energy efficiency in housing transactions. Our findings support that disclosure policies can improve market outcomes in settings with symmetrically incomplete information.