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Products: Research Papers

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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

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

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.


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.


The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Watershed Management

Efficient management of groundwater resource systems requires careful consideration of relationships — both positive and negative — with the surrounding environment. The removal of and protection against “bad” and "ugly" natural capital such as invasive plants and feral animals and the enhancement of “good” capital (e.g. protective fencing) are often viewed as distinct management problems. Yet environmental linkages to a common groundwater resource suggest that watershed management decisions should be informed by an integrated framework. We develop such a framework and derive principles that govern optimal investment in the management of two types of natural capital — those that increase recharge and those that decrease recharge — as well as groundwater extraction itself. Depending on the initial conditions of the system and the characteristics of each type of natural capital, it may make sense to remove bad capital exclusively, enhance good capital exclusively, or invest in both activities simultaneously until their marginal benefits are equal.


Optimal Joint Management of Interdependent Resources: Groundwater vs. Kiawe (Prosopis pallida)

Local and global changes continue to influence interactions between groundwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Changes in precipitation, surface water, and land cover can affect the water balance of a given watershed, and thus affect both the quantity and quality of freshwater entering the ground. Groundwater management frameworks often abstract from such interactions. However, in some cases, management instruments can be designed to target simultaneously both groundwater and an interdependent resource such as the invasive kiawe tree (Prosopis pallid), which has been shown to reduce groundwater levels. Results from a groundwater-kiawe management model suggest that at the optimum, the resource manager should be indifferent between conserving a unit of groundwater via tree removal or via reduced consumption. The model’s application to the Kona Coast (Hawai‘i) showed that kiawe management can generate a large net present value for groundwater users. Additional data will be needed to implement full optimization in the resource system.


Globalization and Wage Convergence: Mexico and the United States

Neoclassical trade theory suggests that factor price convergence should follow increased commercial integration. Rising commercial integration and foreign direct investment followed the 1994 North American Free Trade Agreement between the United States and Mexico. This paper evaluates the degree of wage convergence between Mexico and the United States between 1988 and 2011. We apply a synthetic panel approach to employment survey data and a more descriptive approach to Census data from Mexico and the US. First, we find no evidence of long-run wage convergence among cohorts characterized by low migration propensities although this was, in part, due to large macroeconomic shocks. On the other hand, we do find some evidence of convergence for workers with high migration propensities. Finally, we find evidence of convergence in the border of Mexico vis-à-vis its interior in the 1990s but this was reversed in the 2000s.


PURPA and the Impact of Existing Avoided Cost Contracts on Hawai'i’s Electricity Sector

The United States has been trying to reduce its dependence on imported fossil fuel since the 1970s. Domestic fossil fuel supply initially peaked in 1970, and the oil crises of 1973 and 1979 accelerated domestic policy and investments to develop renewable sources of energy (Joskow, 1997). One such policy—passed in 1978 by the U.S. Congress—was the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act (PURPA).

In this policy brief, we identify the existing PURPA-based contracts in Hawai'i and use a Hawai'i-specific electric sector generation planning model, The Hawai'i Electricity Model (HELM), to estimate the impact that PURPA contracts have on both total system cost and the mix of generation technologies. We study a variety of scenarios under the maintained assumption that the state will achieve the Hawai'i Renewable Portfolio Standard, which requires that 40% of electricity sales are generated using renewable sources by the year 2030.


Optimal groundwater management when recharge is declining: a method for valuing the recharge benefits of watershed conservation

Demand for water will continue to increase as per capita income rises and the population grows, and climate change can exacerbate the problem through changes in precipitation patterns and quantities, evapotranspiration, and land cover—all of which directly or indirectly affect the amount of water that ultimately infiltrates back into groundwater aquifers. We develop a dynamic management framework that incorporates alternative climate-change (and hence, recharge) scenarios and apply it to the Pearl Harbor aquifer system on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. By calculating the net present value of water for a variety of plausible climate scenarios, we are able to estimate the indirect value of groundwater recharge that would be generated by watershed conservation activities. Enhancing recharge increases welfare by lowering the scarcity value of water in both the near term and the future, as well as delaying the need for costly alternatives such as desalination. For a reasonable range of parameter values, we find that the present value gain of maintaining recharge ranges from 31.1million to over1.5 billion.

Published version: Burnett, K. and Wada, C.A., 2014. Optimal groundwater management when recharge is declining: a method for valuing the recharge benefits of watershed conservation. Environmental Economics and Policy Studies. In Press.


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