Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2012

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Economics

First Advisor

Nicholas Flores

Second Advisor

Jonathan Hughes

Third Advisor

Terra McKinnish

Abstract

Climate change has emerged as one of the leading policy issues of the early 21st century. In response, a variety of policies and programs have been adopted encouraging renewable energy, energy efficiency and energy conservation. My dissertation consists of three research papers which evaluate two classes of modern energy policy in the United States: renewable energy mandates and behavioral nudges. The Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) is the most prominent state-level renewable energy policy in the United States and has been debated several times at the federal level. Using a fixed-effects panel data model I study the existing experience of the RPS to help inform the policy debate. In contrast with the previous literature that has predominantly studied the average effect of the RPS on renewable capacity investments I explore factors resulting in the heterogeneous effect of the RPS policy. Relying on a basic understanding the electric utility industry and the electricity dispatch process I provide insight into existing experience with the RPS. Spurred by political and economic barriers to adopting renewable energy policy, interest has increased in using motivational techniques informed by behavioral science to encourage reductions in energy consumption. Existing research has predominantly addressed residential energy consumption. The remainder of my dissertation applies well-established motivational techniques to the transportation sector. Using an experimental design, I test whether real-time feedback and social norms can encourage fuel efficient driving behavior. I find that real-time feedback has a large impact on fuel economy, particularly when aggregated across the entire vehicle fleet. I also find some evidence suggesting that social norms can encourage eco-driving, but perhaps more importantly, identify key challenges associated with using social norms in a transportation setting.

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