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Products: Research Papers

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Nowcasting Tourism Industry Performance Using High Frequency Covariates

We evaluate the short term forecasting performance of methods that systematically incorporate high frequency information via covariates. Our results indicate that including timely intra-period data into the forecasting process results in significant gains in predictive accuracy compared to relying exclusively on low frequency aggregates. Anticipating growing popularity of these tools among empirical analysts, we offer practical implementation guidelines to facilitate their adoption.

Working Paper

Efficient Design of Net Metering Agreements in Hawaii and Beyond

In Hawaii, like most U.S. states, households installing rooftop solar photovoltaic (PV) systems receive special pricing under net-metering agreements. These agreements allow households with rooftop solar to buy and sell electricity at the retail rate, effectively using the larger grid to store surplus generation from their panels during sunny times and return it when the sun isn’t shining. If a household generates more electricity than it consumes over the course of a month, it obtains a credit that rolls over for use in future months. Net generation supplied to the grid in excess of that consumed over the course of a full year is forfeited to the utility. 

Project Report

Balancing Opportunities and Costs in Hawaii's Increasingly Green Grid

Hawaii’s tourism-dependent economy and oil-fired power plants make it the most oil dependent state in the United States. It also has the nation’s highest electricity prices, often between 3 and 4 times the national average over the last decade. These high prices, the state’s sunny and windy climate that make it amenable to increasingly economical renewable energy, plus a relatively progressive political culture have pushed the state to adopt an ambitious goal of being 100 percent renewable by 2045. Focusing mainly on the state’s largest grid on Oahu, where most people live, we discuss the cost structure of the current electricity system, the potential benefits and challenges of growing the share of renewable energy, and make a few policy suggestions. In particular, we argue that all homes and businesses should be given an opportunity to buy and sell electricity at the marginal cost of generation. Variable pricing could greatly reduce the cost of renewable energy, and perhaps seed development of Hawaii as a technology center focused on batteries and smart machines that can help shift electricity demand to align with the variable supply of solar and wind energy.

Working Paper

Factors Affecting EV Adoption: A Literature Review and EV Forecast for Hawaii

Electric Vehicles (EVs) reduce or negate gasoline or diesel use in vehicles through integration with the electric grid. Both plug-in hybrid electric vehicles (PHEVs)—which can draw from a battery as well as liquid fuel—and battery electric vehicles (BEVs)—solely powered through electricity—provide the opportunity for power-sharing with the electric grid and can potentially ease the integration of sources of intermittent renewable energy. This is a potentially important technology to help reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, local air pollution, and vehicular noise.

In this paper, we review studies informing the factors that affect EV adoption. We also review and harmonize studies that develop forecasts of EV adoption over time. We select a set of forecasts that represent low, reference, and high EV adoption and apply them to Hawaii-specific EV and car sales data to provide a preliminary forecast of potential EV adoption in Hawaii.

Read the full report on the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute website

Can Energy Efficiency Standards Reduce Prices and Improve Quality? Evidence from the US Clothes Washer Market

We examine the effect of energy efficiency standards on the clothes washers market using a constant-quality price index constructed from same-model price changes for a significant majority of clothes washer models sold in the United States between 2001 and 2011. We find constant-quality prices fell over time, while quality increased, particularly around times energy standards changed. We estimate total welfare changes by assuming the difference between average price and constant-quality price indicates average quality. Further examination shows product entry and exit are associated with changes federal standard for energy efficiency. With policy changes implicitly coordinating entry and exit, average vintage sharply falls when standards change. Controlling for individual model and time effects, we find that lower average vintage is associated with more rapidly falling prices, an effect we attribute to increased competition. We also find a strong relationship between clothes washer prices and average vintage of the same manufacturer, which indicates cannibalism explains much of the declining price of clothes washers over time. We apply the same methodology to other appliances (clothes dryer, room air conditioners and refrigerators) which did not experience simultaneous efficiency standard changes between 2001 and 2011. We see the same cannibalism in the market for clothes dryers, but not for room air conditioners or refrigerators. We also find notable improvements both in the characteristics of clothes washers that directly improve energy efficiency and those that promote convenience and space-saving. Energy efficiency standards appear to facilitate more rapid innovation and price declines.

working Paper

Vog: Using Volcanic Eruptions to Estimate the Health Costs of Particulates and SO2

Kılauea volcano is the largest stationary source of SO2 pollution in the United States of America. Moreover, the SO2 that the volcano emits eventually forms particulate matter, another major pollutant. We use this exogenous source of pollution variation to estimate the impact of particulate matter and SO2 on emergency room admissions and costs in the state of Hawai‘i. Importantly, our data on costs is more accurate than the measures used in much of the literature. We find strong evidence that particulate pollution increases pulmonary-related hospitalization. Specifically, a one standard deviation increase in particulate pollution leads to a 2-3% increase in expenditures on emergency room visits for pulmonary-related outcomes. However, we do not find strong effects for pure SO2 pollution or for cardiovascular outcomes. We also find no effect of volcanic pollution on fractures, our placebo outcome. Finally, the effects of particulate pollution on pulmonary-related admissions are most concentrated among the very young. Our estimates suggest that, since the large increase in emissions that began in 2008, the volcano has increased healthcare costs in Hawai‘i by approximately $6,277,204.


Economic Impact of the Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority Tenants on the State of Hawaii

The Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority (NELHA) contracted UHERO to estimate its economic impact on the State of Hawaii. NELHA currently accommodates 37 tenants ranging from companies bottling deep sea water to solar and biofuel companies. These tenants pay close to $2 million in rent, royalties and pass through expense directly to NELHA. In addition, they employ hundreds of people, purchase goods and services from local businesses, and invest in capital improvements at NELHA.

This research determines NELHA’s contribution to local business sales, employee earnings, tax revenues, and number of jobs in Hawaii from the expenditures of its tenants in 2013. NELHA provides additional benefits to the state of Hawaii that this study does not capture but are important to consider when evaluating NELHA’s overall footprint on the economy.


Creating "Paradise of the Pacific": How Tourism Began in Hawaii

This article recounts the early years of one of the most successful tourist destinations in the world, Hawaii, from about 1870 to 1940. Tourism began in Hawaii when faster and more predictable steamships replaced sailing vessels in trans-Pacific travel. Governments (international, national, and local) were influential in shaping the way Hawaii tourism developed, from government mail subsidies to steamship companies, local funding for tourism promotion, and America’s protective legislation on domestic shipping. Hawaii also reaped a windfall from its location at the crossroads of the major trade routes in the Pacific region. The article concludes with policy lessons.


Benefit-Cost Analysis of Watershed Conservation

The objectives of this report are (1) to review studies that estimate the relationship between watershed conservation activities and groundwater recharge in Hawai‘i and (2) to estimate the volume of freshwater yield saved per dollar invested in conservation at several sites on Hawai‘i Island. We conclude from the literature review that more work should be done to integrate information from smaller-scale studies of invasive-native water use differences into regional water balance models. This would help to inform decisions related to watershed conservation activities statewide. Using budget information obtained from the Nature Conservancy and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife as well as publicly available landcover and evapotranspiration (ET) data, we estimate the gallons of freshwater yield saved per dollar invested in watershed conservation. Under baseline conditions—a 3 percent discount rate and a 10 percent rate of spread for existing invasive plant species—roughly 400 gallons are saved on average across management sites per dollar invested. In other words, about $2.50 in present value terms is required to protect every one thousand gallons of freshwater over a 50 year time horizon. Annual benefits increase continuously as the avoided loss of freshwater yield rises over time, while conservation costs tend to be front-loaded, as a result of high fence installation and ungulate removal costs. Thus, it is important to consider the long run when comparing the benefits and costs of conservation activities.

working paper

Benefits and Costs of Implementing the IAPMO Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement in Hawaii

We calculate the benefits and costs of implementing the International Association of Plumbing and Mechanical Officials (IAPMO) 2012 Green Plumbing and Mechanical Code Supplement (GPMC) for various building types in Hawaii, with particular emphasis on water-use efficiency provisions in the code. Benefits of the GPMC are measured as water savings, where baseline usage is estimated in accordance with the 2012 Uniform Plumbing Code (UPC), which has been recently adopted by the state and will soon be adopted by the counties. We also monetize those benefits at the household level (water bill savings) and at the state level (cost savings to the water supply boards and departments throughout the state). Based on discussions with plumbers, building contractors, developers, architects, mechanical engineers, planners, and other water specialists, as well as an assessment of prices at major home improvement stores and other online retailers, we estimate the costs of GPMC compliance for new structures planned for Hawaii over the next decade. If the GPMC is implemented, the payback period is two years and the net present value assuming a discount rate of zero is $15.13 million. For a discount rate of 5%, the NPV is $11.29 million.


An Economic and GHG Analysis of LNG in Hawaii

Hawaii currently meets the majority of its electricity needs through costly oil-fired generation causing rates to be nearly four times the national average (EIA, 2013a). The "shale gas revolution" has led to rapidly declining natural gas prices within the continental U.S. The emergence of a natural gas market that is de-linked from oil prices has renewed Hawaii's interest in natural gas imports. Potentially lower natural gas prices as well as the view that it will help to reduce green house gas (GHG) emissions and increase energy supply security through domestic sourcing are major reasons why the State and key stakeholders are deliberating over importing large amounts of natural gas in liquefied form (liquefied natural gas or LNG). This study uses detailed models of Hawaii's electric sector and overall economy to estimate the impacts of Hawaii importing LNG for use in the electric sector.


A Hurricane’s Long-Term Economic Impact: the Case of Hawaii’s Iniki

The importance of understanding the macro-economic impact of natural disasters cannot be overstated. Hurricane Iniki, that hit the Hawaiian island of Kauai on September 11th, 1992, offers an ideal case study to better understand the long-term economic impacts of a major disaster. Iniki is uniquely suited to provide insights into the long-term economic impacts of disaster because (1) there is now seventeen years of detailed post-disaster economic data and (2) a nearby island, Maui, provides an ideal control group. Hurricane Iniki was the strongest hurricane to hit the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history, and wrought an estimated 7.4 billion (2008 US$) in initial damage. Here we show that Kauai’s economy only returned to pre-Iniki levels 7-8 years after the storm; though 17 years later, it has yet to recover in terms of its population and labor force. As we document, these long-term adverse impacts of disasters are ‘hidden.’ They are not usually treated as ‘costs’ of disasters, and are ignored when cost-benefit analysis of mitigation programs is used, or when countries, states, and islands attempt to prepare, financially and otherwise, to the possibility of future events.


In the Eye of the Storm: Coping with Future Natural Disasters in Hawaii

Hurricane Iniki, that hit the island of Kauai on September 11th, 1992, was the strongest hurricane that hit the Hawaiian Islands in recorded history, and the one that wrought the most damage, estimated at 7.4 billion (in 2008 US$). We provide an assessment of Hawaii’s vulnerability to disasters using a framework developed for small islands. In addition, we provide an analysis of the ex post impact of Iniki on the economy of Kauai. Using indicators such as visitor arrivals and agricultural production, we show that Kauai’s economy only returned to pre-Iniki levels 7-8 years after the storm. Today, it has yet to recover in terms of population growth. As an island state, Hawaii is particularly susceptible to the occurrence of disasters. Even more worrying, Hawaii’s dependence on tourism, narrow export base, high level of imports and relatively small agricultural sector make Hawaii much more likely to struggle to recover in the aftermath. By thoroughly learning from Kauai’s experience and the state’s vulnerabilities, we hope we can better prepare for likely future disaster events.


Incentivizing interdependent resource management: watersheds, groundwater, and coastal ecology

Managing water resources independently may result in substantial economic losses when those resources are interdependent with each other and with other environmental resources. We first develop general principles for using resources with spillovers, including corrective taxes (subsidies) for incentivizing private resource users. We then analyze specific cases of managing water resources, in particular the interaction of groundwater with upstream or downstream resource systems.

Published version: Burnett, Kimberly, Sittidaj Pongkijvorasin, James Roumasset, and Christopher A. Wada. "Incentivizing interdependent resource management: watersheds, groundwater and coastal ecology". Handbook of Water Economics. Cheltenham, UK: Edward Elgar Publishing, 2015. Print.


Groundwater Economics without Equations

In many parts of the world, irrigation and groundwater consumption are largely dependent on groundwater. Minimizing the adverse effects of water scarcity requires optimal as well as sustainable groundwater management. A common recommendation is to limit groundwater extraction to maximum sustainable yield (MSY). Although the optimal welfare-maximizing path of groundwater extraction converges to MSY in some cases, MSY generates waste in the short and medium term due to ambiguity regarding the transition to the desired long-run stock level and failure to account for the full costs of the resource. However, the price that incentivizes optimal consumption often exceeds the physical costs of extracting and distributing groundwater, which poses a problem for public utilities facing zero excess-revenue constraints. We discuss how the optimal price can be implemented in a revenue-neutral fashion using an increasing block pricing structure. The exposition is non-technical. More advanced references on groundwater resource management are also provided.


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