Catherine Wolfram's research while affiliated with University of California and other places

Publications (97)

Chapter
Full-text available
What challenges arise when deploying a novel technology at increasing scale? This case study details our experience developing and deploying technologies to monitor power outages and voltage fluctuations at high temporal and geographic frequency. After a small initial pilot, our deployment grew over time and eventually exceeded 450 sensors and 3500...
Article
We provide descriptive evidence on the challenges in efficiently, effectively, and fairly distributing in-kind electricity transfers to households. We collect panel data from 1200 households eligible for Ghana’s COVID-19 electricity relief program. Distributing relief through electricity transfers enabled an immediate response to the crisis. Theore...
Article
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As global temperatures go up and incomes rise, air conditioner sales are poised to increase dramatically. Recent studies explore the potential economic and environmental impacts of this growth, but relatively little attention has been paid to the implications for inequality. In this paper we use household-level microdata from 16 countries to charac...
Article
We provide the first at-scale estimate of electric vehicle (EV) home charging. Previous estimates are based on conflicting surveys or are extrapolated from a small, unrepresentative sample of households with dedicated EV meters. We combine billions of hourly electricity meter measurements with address-level EV registration records from California h...
Article
We study default effects in the context of a residential electricity-pricing program. In the large-scale randomized controlled trial we analyse, one treatment group was given the option to opt-in to time-varying pricing while another was defaulted into the program but allowed to opt-out. We provide dramatic evidence of a default effect on program p...
Article
In recent years, electrification has reemerged as a key priority in low-income countries, with a particular focus on electrifying households. Yet the microeconomic literature examining the impacts of electrifying households on economic development has produced a set of conflicting results. Does household electrification lead to measurable gains in...
Article
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Air conditioning adoption is increasing dramatically worldwide as incomes rise and average temperatures go up. Using daily temperature data from 14,500 weather stations, we rank 219 countries and 1,692 cities based on a widely used measure of cooling demand called total cooling degree day exposure. India, China, Indonesia, Nigeria, Pakistan, Brazil...
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“Modern energy for all,” an internationally supported initiative to connect populations to electricity services, is expected to help reduce poverty-induced vulnerabilities. It has become a primary strategy for meeting sustainable development goals, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. However, when electricity is supplied by a capacity-constrained gri...
Conference Paper
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The vision of sensor systems that collect critical and previously ungathered information about the world is often only realized when sensors, students, and subjects move outside the academic laboratory. However, deployments at even the smallest scales introduce complexities and risks that can be difficult for a research team to anticipate. Over the...
Article
This paper documents the challenges faced by one company, Gram Power, installing and operating solar microgrids in rural India. We begin by summarizing the existing literature on best practices for microgrid deployment. Although Gram Power followed nearly all of these recommendations, the company nevertheless faced significant challenges. First, de...
Conference Paper
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Network connectivity is often one of the most challenging aspects of deploying sensors. In many countries, cellular networks provide the most reliable, highest bandwidth, and greatest coverage option for Internet access. While this makes smartphones a seemingly ideal platform to serve as a gateway between sensors and the cloud, we find that a devic...
Article
A growing number of policies and programs aim to increase investment in energy efficiency, because conventional wisdom suggests that people fail to take up these investments even though they have positive private returns and generate environmental benefits. Many explanations for this energy efficiency gap have been put forward, but there has been s...
Article
We study household decisions to acquire energy-using assets in the presence of rising incomes. We develop a theoretical framework to characterize the effect of income growth on asset purchases when consumers face credit constraints. We use large and plausibly exogenous shocks to household income generated by the conditional-cash-transfer program in...
Article
In Sub-Saharan Africa, there are active debates about whether increases in energy access should be driven by investments in electric grid infrastructure or small-scale "home solar" systems (e.g., solar lanterns and solar home systems). We summarize the results of a household electrical appliance survey and describe how households in rural Kenya dif...
Article
Researchers and professional evaluators are increasingly turning to randomized field experiments to evaluate energy efficiency programs and policies. This article provides a brief overview of several experimental methods and discusses their application to energy efficiency programs. We highlight experimental designs, such as randomized encouragemen...
Article
Great strides have been made over the past century in our ability to harness energy sources, leading to profound transformations — both good and bad — in society. Looking at the energy system of today, it is clear that meeting the energy needs of the world now and in the years to come requires the concerted efforts of many different actors across a...
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In Sub-Saharan Africa, 600 million people live without electricity. Despite ambitions of governments and donors to invest in rural electrification, decisions about how to extend electricity access are being made in the absence of rigorous evidence. In this paper, we present high-resolution spatial data on electrification rates in rural Kenya in ord...
Article
We document very low take-up of an energy efficiency program that is widely believed to be privately beneficial. Program participants receive a substantial home “weatherization” retrofit; all installation and equipment costs are covered by the program. Less than 1 percent of presumptively eligible households take up the program in the control group...
Article
Conventional wisdom suggests that energy efficiency (EE) policies are beneficial because they induce investments that pay for themselves and lead to emissions reductions. However, this belief is primarily based on projections from engineering models. This paper reports on the results of an experimental evaluation of the nation’s largest residential...
Article
We document very low take-up of an energy efficiency program that is widely believed to be privately beneficial. Program participants receive a substantial home "weatherization" retrofit; all installation and equipment costs are covered by the program. Less than 1 percent of presumptively eligible households take up the program in the control group...
Article
Full-text available
In June, the Obama Administration unveiled its proposal for a Clean Power Plan, which it estimates would reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from existing U.S. power plants 30% below 2005 levels by 2030 (see the chart). Power plant emissions have declined substantially since 2005, so the plan is seeking reductions of about 18% from current levels...
Article
Current forecasts suggest that the vast majority of growth in energy demand will come from the developing world, and that China will play a major part in that growth. This paper presents evidence suggesting that the shape of the income distribution, which is typically omitted from forecasting models, plays a major role in driving household acquisit...
Data
Full-text available
This paper provides the first empirical evidence that household electrification leads to direct and substantial welfare improvements via reductions in indoor air pollu-tion. In the setting of a recent electrification program in northern El Salvador, we exploit a unique dataset on minute-by-minute fine particulate matter (PM 2.5) concen-tration with...
Article
Most of the future growth in energy use is forecast to come from the developing world. Understanding the likely pace and specific location of this growth is essential to inform decisions about energy infrastructure investments and to improve greenhouse gas emissions forecasts. We argue that countries with pro-poor economic growth will experience la...
Article
As both a regulator and an academic, Fred Kahn argued that end-use electricity consumers should face prices that reflect the time-varying marginal costs of generating electricity. This has been very slow to happen in the US, even in light of recent technological advances that have lowered costs and improved functionality for meters and automated de...
Article
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Over the next 25 to 30 years, nearly all of the growth in energy demand, fossil fuel use, associated local pollution, and greenhouse gas emissions is forecast to come from the developing world. This paper argues that the world's poor and near-poor will play a major role in driving medium-run growth in energy consumption. As the world economy expand...
Article
For political and practical reasons, environmental regulations sometimes treat point-source polluters, such as power plants, differently from mobile-source polluters, such as vehicles. This paper measures the extent of this regulatory asymmetry in the case of nitrogen oxides (NOx), the most recalcitrant criteria air pollutant in the United States....
Article
While economic models have already proven useful to analyze big picture questions about climate policy such as the choice between a carbon tax or cap-and-trade permit system, the 19 chapters in this book show how economic models also are useful to address the many remaining smaller questions that arise as policy is implemented. For example, chapter...
Article
For the first four decades of its existence the U.S. nuclear power industry was run by regulated utilities, with most companies owning only one or two reactors. Beginning in the late 1990s electricity markets in many states were deregulated and almost half of the nation’s 103 reactors were sold to independent power producers selling power in compet...
Article
We analyze how a country's political institutions affect oil production within its borders. We find a pronounced negative relationship between political openness and volatility in oil production, with democratic regimes exhibiting less volatility than more autocratic regimes. This relationship holds across a number of robustness checks including us...
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This paper examines how intellectual property rights' enforcement in poor countries may have unin-tended consequences given a rapid flow of price information across national borders. Such flows may affect market segmentation between rich and poor countries if consumers in rich countries incorporate prices from poor countries into their reference pr...
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We use the decision by 14 states to remove credit card interest rate caps after the U.S. Supreme Court's 1978 Marquette decision as a natural experiment to explore the impact of credit card availability on black entrepreneurship. Using self-employment as a measure of entrepreneurship, we use Current Population Survey data from 1971-1985 to show tha...
Article
Despite widespread acceptance and application of real options theory in the economic literature, little empirical work has attempted to assess the extent to which firm behavior accords with the theory's prescriptions. In particular, it is not well-known whether, or by how much, firms actually delay irreversible investments following an increase in...
Article
This paper analyzes how a country's political conditions affect oil production within its borders. We show that there is a pronounced negative relationship between a country's political openness and the short-run volatility in oil production, with very democratic regimes exhibiting less volatility in their oil production than more autocratic regime...
Article
This paper analyzes the effects of the New Source Review (NSR) environmentalregulations on coal-fired electric power plants. Regulations that grew out of the Clean Air Act of 1970 required new electric generating plants to install costly pollution control equipment but exempted existing plants. Existing plants lost their exemptions if they made ``m...
Article
Full-text available
For political and practical reasons, environmental regulations sometimes treat point source polluters, such as power plants, di¤erently from mobile source polluters, such as vehicles. This paper measures the extent of this regulatory asymmetry in the case of nitrogen oxides (NOx), the criteria air pollutant that has proven to be the most recalcitra...
Article
Using data from the 2003 National Survey of College Graduates and a sample of Harvard alumnae, we study the relationship between work environment and the labor force participation of mothers. We first document a large variation in labor force participation rates across high-education fields. Mindful of the possibility of systematic patterns in the...
Article
This paper analyzes the effects of the New Source Review (NSR) environmental regulations on coal-fired electric power plants. Regulations that grew out of the Clean Air Act of 1970 required new electric generating plants to install costly pollution control equipment but exempted existing plants with a grandfathering clause. Existing plants lost the...
Article
We introduce a new hybrid approach to joint estimation of Value at Risk (VaR) and Expected Shortfall (ES) for high quantiles of return distributions. We investigate the relative performance of VaR and ES models using daily returns for sixteen stock market indices (eight from developed and eight from emerging markets) prior to and during the 2008 fi...
Article
Full-text available
For political and practical reasons, environmental regulations sometimes treat point source polluters, such as power plants, differently from mobile source polluters, such as vehicles. This paper measures the extent of this regulatory asymmetry in the case of nitrogen oxides (NOx), the criteria air pollutant that has proven to be the most recalcitr...
Article
This article considers the efficacy of various types of environmental regulations when they are applied locally to pollutants, such as greenhouse gases, whose damages extend beyond the jurisdiction of the local regulator. While previous work has noted the possibility for leakage, whereby polluting sources move outside the jurisdiction of the regula...
Article
For two years prior to the collapse of California's restructured electricity market, power traded in both a forward and a spot market for delivery at the same times and locations. Nonetheless, prices in the two markets often differed in significant and predictable ways. This apparent inefficiency persisted, we argue, because most firms believed tha...
Chapter
In many parts of the world buyers and sellers now trade electrical energy in liberalized markets. These markets have partially replaced cost-based regulation and government ownership.
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This paper considers the efficiency of various types of environmental regulations when they are applied locally to pollutants whose damages extend outside the jurisdiction of the local regulator. We draw on examples from state- and city-level efforts to address climate change by enacting policies to reduce greenhouse gases. While previous work has...
Article
Economists have long recognized that certainty of contract is essential to a healthy economy. Long-term forward contracts, in particular, help reduce financial risk. Those contracts can only accomplish that goal, however, if parties know the contracts will be enforced. From an economic and policy standpoint, long-term energy contracts should be abr...
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While neoclassical models assume static cost-minimization by firms, agency models suggest that firms may not minimize costs in less-competitive or regulated environments. We test this using a transition from cost-of-service regulation to marketoriented environments for many US electric generating plants. Our estimates of input demand suggest that p...
Article
This paper calculates indices of central bank autonomy (CBA) for 163 central banks as of end-2003, and comparable indices for a subgroup of 68 central banks as of the end of the 1980s. The results confirm strong improvements in both economic and political CBA over the past couple of decades, although more progress is needed to boost political auton...
Article
California is in the process of implementing a broad portfolio of policies and regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions. This paper summarizes the initiatives likely to impact the electricity generating sector. We present calculations showing that there is a substantial risk that two of the most prominent policies could simply result...
Article
This paper analyzes the effects of the New Source Review (NSR) environmental regulations on coal-fired electric power plants. The New Source Review program, which grew out of the Clean Air Act of 1970, required new plants to install costly pollution control equipment but exempted existing plants with a grandfathering clause. Previous theoretical re...
Article
Full-text available
We argue that provision of computer security in a networked environment is an externality and subject to market failures. However, regulatory regimes or a pricing schemes can causes parties to internalize the externalities and provide more security. The current mechanisms for dealing with security are security analysis firms; publications of vulner...
Article
This paper quantifies the impact of drug monopolies on prices using the example of the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs used to treat the HIV virus. I use a new cross-country price dataset from 2000 to 2003 to estimate each ARV 's marginal cost and markup by country. These markups are compared across two groups of countries: those with and those without...
Article
We investigate the effects of political activity on pharmaceutical prices, focusing on the health care reform period in the early 1990s.We characterize firms based on their vulnerability to future price regulation and find that the more vulnerable firms were more likely to take various actions to forestall regulation, most notably coordinating on a...
Article
As with other commodities, electricity is often traded on both forward and spot markets. This was initially true in the restructured California electricity industry from 1998 to 2000. Though the power traded in the forward and spot markets was for delivery at the same times and locations, prices often differed in significant and predictable ways. W...
Article
Full-text available
Home energy costs comprise a significant fraction of household budgets, particularly for poor families. This paper analyzes how household consumption responds to changes in home energy outlays over the course of the year. We specify Euler equations describing nondurable and food consumption and then rely on changes in energy prices and weather seve...
Article
Electric industry restructuring in the US has led to rapid and substantial changes in the ownership of the existing stock of electricity generating plants. Between 1998 and 2001, over 300 electric generating plants in the US, accounting for nearly twenty percent of the total generating capacity, changed hands. Moreover, because the new owners are u...
Article
This paper considers early efforts to award airmail routes to private contractors through franchise bidding. I evaluate the franchise bidding process relative to alternative regulatory forms focusing on the effects of competition on prices, contracting issues and the incumbency advantage. The existing empirical literature on franchise bidding has f...
Article
Although the allocative efficiency benefits of competition are a tenet of microeconomic theory, the relation between competition and technical efficiency is less well understood. Neoclassical models of profit-maximization subsume static cost-minimizing behavior regardless of market competitiveness, but agency models of managerial behavior suggest p...
Article
This paper quantifies the impact of drug monopolies on prices in developing countries using the example of the antiretroviral (ARV) drugs used to treat the HIV virus. I use a new cross-country price dataset of ARV drugs to estimate the relationship between ARV prices and per-capita income across countries. I find that ARV prices had little or no re...
Article
This paper assesses whether impending electricity industry restructuring in an investor-owned utility's home state encourages the utility to improve efficiency at its generating plants. Under cost- plus regulation, utilities have little incentive to reduce operating costs since they can pass them directly to ratepayers. Restructuring programs incre...
Article
Home energy costs comprise a significant fraction of household budgets, particularly for poor families. This paper analyzes how household consumption responds to changes in home energy outlays over the course of the year. We specify Euler equations describing nondurable and food consumption and then rely on changes in energy prices and weather seve...
Article
Standard real business cycle models must rely on total factor productivity (TFP) shocks to explain the observed comovement of consumption, investment, and hours worked. This paper shows that a neoclassical model consistent with observed heterogeneity in labor supply and consumption can generate comovement in the absence of TFP shocks. Intertemporal...
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ion, I outline many of the changes brought about by restructuring, focusing on why they might affect generation efficiency. Section 2 discusses the aspects of production that could possibly be affected. Section 3 outlines some possible approaches for measuring the effects and Section 4 discusses the existing empirical evidence. Section 5 concludes....
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Full-text available
We explore the relationship between shelf prices and manufacturers' coupons for 25 ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. We find that shelf prices are lower during periods when coupons are available. This result is inconsistent with static monopoly price discrimination under a broad range of assumptions. We present evidence that is inconsistent with both...
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We study price convergence between the two major markets for wholesale electricity in California from their deregulation in April 1998 through November 2000, nearly the end of trading in one market. We would expect profit-maximizing traders to have eliminated persistent price differences between the markets. Institutional impediments and traders' i...
Article
Drug prices have been a conspicuous political issue in much of recent history, but no more so than during health care reform debates in 1993 and 1994. This paper investigates possible effects of political activity on pharmaceutical prices, with a particular focus on the health care reform period. It evaluates the extent to which pharmaceutical comp...
Article
This paper investigates possible effects of political activity on pharmaceutical prices, with a particular focus on the health care reform period. It evaluates the extent to which pharmaceutical companies slowed the rates at which they increased prices in an attempt to preempt government intervention. To do so, we characterize companies based on th...
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this paper we have introduced a mechanism for creating a market for security vulnerabilities based on vulnerability credits which can be exploited. We have discussed a first cut at a market for vulnerability credits. We note that there exist many mechanisms for implementing such a scheme in the literature of mechanism for Internet commerce. Compani...
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In this paper, we investigate a gasoline station’s incentive to price-discriminate by selling full-service gasoline as well as self-service gasoline. Unlike previous research, we explicitly model a firm’s incentive to price discriminate by choosing to be either single-product or multi-product as a function of market and station characteristics. Usi...
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This study explores corporate responses to 1993 legislation, implemented as section 162(m) of the Internal Revenue Code, that capped the corporate tax deductibility of top management compensation at $1 million per executive unless it qualified as substantially performance-based.' We detail the provisions of this regulation, describe its possible ef...
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This paper looks at a hardware firm's decision to make its products forward and backward compatible in a model with heterogeneous consumer preferences. First, looking at a competitive hardware market, we show that backward compatibility always increases the valuation of hardware by the marginal consumer (who has the lowest valuation among purchaser...
Article
This paper analyzes prices in the day-ahead electricity market in Norway. We consider the hypothesis that generators are better able to exercise market power when transmission constraints bind, resulting in smaller, more-concentrated markets. We test this hypothesis by comparing equilibrium prices across periods with different demand elasticity and...
Article
Full-text available
This paper explores the relationship between shelf prices and manufacturers' coupons for 25 ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. Contrary to the predictions of static monopoly price discrimination, we find the shelf prices for a particular brand in a particular city are generally lower during periods when coupons are available. We find evidence that is...
Article
This article presents an empirical study of market power in the British electricity industry. Estimates of price-cost markups are derived using direct measures of marginal cost and several approaches that do not rely on cost data. Since two suppliers facing inelastic demand dominate the industry, most oligopoly models predict prices substantially a...
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The average chief executive at one of Britain's twelve regional electricity distribution companies experienced nearly a threefold salary increase in the two years following the industry privatization in 1990. It is hard to account for the tremendous pay raises with conventional explanations for executive compensation rates. They are not attributabl...
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The average chief executive at one of Britain's twelve regional electricity distribution companies experienced nearly a threefold salary increase in the two years following the industry privatization in 1990. It is hard to account for the tremendous pay raises with conventional explanations for executive compensation rates. They are not attributabl...
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I consider bidding behavior in the daily electricity auction in England and Wales. Theoretical work on uniform-price multiunit procurement auctions suggests that bidders offering more than one unit have an incentive to increase their bids at high quantities. If a bid sets a high equilibrium price, it applies to all inframarginal units. I find evide...
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This paper considers the bidding behavior of participants in the daily auction to supply electricity in England and Wales. Every day, owners of generating capacity submit bids reflecting a price for power from their plants. The price bid by the last plant used to meet electricity needs in a given time period is the price paid for capacity from all...
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This paper considers the effects of the 1993 legislation limiting the deductibility of non-performance-based executive compensation for corporate income tax purposes. We begin by describing the specific provisions of the legislation, and we discuss its possible effects on overall compensation levels and the relative importance of different componen...
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This study explores the effect of regulatory and political constraints on the level of CEO compensation for 87 state-regulated electric utilities during 1978-1990. The results suggest that political pressures may constrain top executive pay levels in this industry. First, CEOs of firms operating in regulatory environments characterized by investmen...
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This article investigates the use of technology upgrades by incumbent firms in response to potential entry by government firms. Using a dataset of over 3000 US cable TV systems, the article presents evidence consistent with entry deterrence theory. Incumbent cable systems are more likely to upgrade when located in a market with a government-owned p...
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Manufacturing industries differ with respect to their energy intensity, labor-to-capital ratio and their pollution intensity. Across the United States, there is significant variation in electricity prices and labor and environmental regulation. This paper uses a border-pairs approach to examine whether the basic logic of comparative advantage can e...

Citations

... Other COVID policies were introduced by the authorities. In particular, the government announced that it would subsidize electricity, a measure similar to that taken in Ghana [33]. The subsidy was targeted towards poorer households: it was limited to those with an electricity supply limited to 5 Amp (e.g., insufficient to power a large fridge) and with a prepaid plan from the electricity supplier, since these consumers are typically poorer than those with a postpaid plan. ...
... This paper contributes to a growing literature documenting and explaining the root causes of consumers' inaction. 1 This has been observed in a variety of settings, including health insurance markets (Handel and Kolstad, 2015), retirement plans (Benartzi and Thaler, 2007;Madrian and Shea, 2001), and electricity (Fowlie et al., 2021). In the context of water (and energy) consumption, a paper by Tiefenbeck et al. (2016) shows the importance of inattention by consumers and the importance of saliency through an experiment with real-time feedback during showering. ...