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UHERO State Forecast Update: Except for Weather, Outlook Shines

Hawaii’s economic outlook continues to look bright. Tourism is pushing toward new records, and the construction upswing is building in strength. The overall expansion remains solidly on track, delivering better labor market conditions and the prospect of further household income gains. Still, in the midst of this hot and soggy summer we are pondering some ominous clouds forming out on the horizon.

This analysis and near-term forecast is available as a service to the public. For more detailed multi-year forecasts, subscribe to UHERO's Forecast Project.

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Facebook-to-Facebook: Online Communication and Economic Cooperation

Communication is often critical for economic cooperation and enhancement of trust. Traditionally, direct face-to-face communication has been found to be more effective than any form of indirect, mediated communication. We study whether this is still the case given that many people routinely use texting and online social media to conduct economic transactions. In our laboratory experiment, groups of participants communicate either (i) face-to-face, (ii) through the most popular online social network - Facebook, or (iii) using text messaging, before participating in a public goods or a trust game. While people talk significantly more under traditional face-to-face, discussions through Facebook and text messages prove as effective as face-to-face communication in enhancing cooperation and increasing trust. For all three media, discussions that focus on the game or use more positive emotion words are correlated with enhanced trust. It appears that young American adults are now just as adept at communicating and reducing social distance online as they are in person.



KITV: Carl Bonham on Falling Gas Prices

UHERO Executive Director Carl Bonham appears on KITV to talk about the effects of falling gas prices on Hawaii's economy, as well as the latest State Council on Revenues general fund forecast. 


The Conversation: Carl Bonham on the State Council on Revenues General Fund Forecast

UHERO Executive Director Carl Bonham appears on The Conversation to discuss the State Council on Revenues forecast for the 2015 fiscal year.


Electric Vehicle Lifecycle Cost Assessment for Hawaii

This study develops a model to estimate the total cost of ownership of electric vehicles (EVs) in comparison to similar internal combustion engine (ICEVs) and hybrid electric vehicles (HEVs). The model includes issues related to purchase/finance, insurance, maintenance, resale value, future fuel prices and access to solar photovoltaic (PV). It also estimates the impact of proposed EV time-of-use rates on ownership costs.

Key findings are as follows:

  •  EVs on average cost more than their internal combustion engine (ICE) or hybrid electric vehicle (HEV) counterparts, though this gap is substantially reduced with the federal tax credit.
  •  The Nissan Leaf is cost competitive without the federal tax credit and has the lowest lifecycle vehicle cost when incorporating the federal tax credit (among all vehicles considered).
  •  Electricity rates in Hawaii are much higher than the national average. Using the Energy Information Administration’s range of forecasts for future oil prices (low, reference and high), a set of future electricity and gasoline prices are determined. The model finds that when oil prices are low or reference, lifetime fuel costs are higher for EVs than other vehicles. When oil prices are high, on the other hand, EVs offer notable cost savings while accounting for Hawaii’s historic relationship between oil prices and electric rates.
  •  Having residential PV substantially brings down the cost of EV ownership, even considering the capital expenditure for PV panels.
  •  The pilot and proposed TOU rates offered by the utility reduce lifecycle EV fuel costs, assuming charging only when rates are lowest, by an average of 10%.

Read the full report at the Electric Vehicle Transportation Center.

ThinkTech Hawaii: Makena Coffman on Sustainable Hawaii

UHERO Research Fellow Makena Coffman appeared on ThinkTech Hawaii to discuss lifecycle analysis and greenhouse gas emissions.


Where do Social Preferences Come From?

Where do preferences for fairness come from? We use a unique field setting to test for a spillover of sharing norms from the workplace to a laboratory experiment. Fishermen working in teams receive random income shocks (catching fish) that they must regularly divide among themselves. We demonstrate a clear correlation between sharing norms in the field and sharing norms in the lab. Furthermore, the spillover effect is stronger for fishermen who have been exposed to a sharing norm for longer, suggesting that our findings are not driven by selection effects. Our results are consistent with the hypothesis that work environments shape social preferences.


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

Water, energy, and food Security in the Asia Pacific Region

Security measures of three resources; water, energy and food are analysed for thirty two countries in the Asia Pacific region, in terms of amounts of the resource, self-production, and diversity of souces of each resource. We find that the Asia Pacific countries contain almost half of the world’s income and population, and are more self-sufficient in food production than the rest of the world, but are less self-sufficient in energy production. The self-production ratio of food within the Asia Pacific region has been decreasing since the 1960’s, though the ratio is still over 100 %. On the other hand, the self-production energy rate within the Asia-Pacific region increased from 82 % in the 1970’s up to 95 % in 2010. Diversity for all the three resources is also analyzed using surface water and groundwater for water sources; hydro power, geothermal power, solar, and biomass for energy; and cereals, vegetable, fruit, meat, and fish for food. We see high diversity of sources of water in the US and the Philippines, and a low diversity of sources of food in the US, Canada, and Indonesia.


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

Assessing the potential for food and energy self-sufficiency on the island of Kauai, Hawaii

Food and energy security are major concerns in the Pacific and around the world. They are key planning priorities in the state of Hawaii as well. Approximately 90 percent of energy and food resources are imported to Hawaii from the continental USA or other parts of the world. While food and energy independence is a goal in many jurisdictions, assessment of the potential for local food and energy production is lacking. Research is needed to examine how agricultural lands can be used to meet food and energy demands, particularly on islands where land is limited. The contribution of this paper is the development of a community-orientated method for evaluating and prioritizing lands for food and energy self-sufficiency, based on local preferences and production possibilities. Based on a review of the literature, community meetings, and expert interviews, three scenarios were developed to assess food and energy production possibilities on Kauai. The first scenario considers maximum food production, the second assigns equal importance to food and energy production, and the third scenario maximizes energy production. This work broadens policy discussions regarding the preservation of agricultural lands on small islands.

Published version: Kim, K., K. Burnett and J. Ghimire. 2015. Assessing the potential for food and energy self-sufficiency on the island of Kauai, Hawaii. Food Policy, 54, 44-51.


Intergenerational Games with Dynamic Externalities and Climate Change Experiments

Dynamic externalities are at the core of many long-term environmental problems, from species preservation to climate change mitigation. We use laboratory experiments to compare welfare outcomes and underlying behavior in games with dynamic externalities under two distinct settings: traditionally studied games with infinitely-lived decision makers, and more realistic intergenerational games. We show that if decision makers change across generations, resolving dynamic externalities becomes more challenging for two distinct reasons. First, decision makers’ actions may be short-sighted due to their limited incentives to care about the future generations’ welfare. Second, even when the incentives are perfectly aligned across generations, increased strategic uncertainty of the intergenerational setting may lead to an increased inconsistency of own actions and beliefs about the others, making own actions more myopic. Access to history and advice from previous generations may improve dynamic efficiency, but may also facilitate coordination on noncooperative action paths.


UHERO County Forecast: Neighbor Island Tourism Still Has Room to Grow

After a rather soft 2014, the counties are poised for better performance over the next several years. Tourism will see additional healthy gains on the Neighbor Islands for the next two years, before rising occupancy and costs begin to bring down growth rates, something that has already occurred on Oahu. Construction, which has disappointed so far, will become a significant contributor to growth. Gains in employment have brought unemployment rates down substantially, and moderate expansion of jobs and income will continue, helping to solidify the local spending leg of the economic expansion.

A summary of this forecast is available as a service to the public. For more detailed analysis, subscribe to UHERO's Forecast Project.

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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 at the Electric Vehicle Transportation Center.

Do Energy Efficiency Standards Hurt Consumers? Evidence from Household Appliance Sales

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.

Revised version, posted December 22, 2016

working Paper

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