It’s been nearly half a year since my colleague John Quigley passed away, but we revived his many scientific contributions in a recent conference at the Lincoln Land Institute – Present and Retrospect: The Work of John M. Quigley. The first day of the conference was on “Energy Efficiency and Cities,” and many great papers were presented:
- Dwight Jaffee presented a paper on Financing Mechanisms for Energy-Efficient Retrofits. (This is part of an on-going project with LBNL, funded by DOE);
- Erin Mansur had a great paper on the productivity effects of electricity shortages, using data from China (“Sandy” recently made clear how severe the impacts of electricity shortages can be…)
- A must-read for a better understanding of the effects of urbanization and GDP growth in developing countries on energy demand was presented by Catherine Wolfram. According to the paper, assumptions by the IEA underestimate increases in energy demand from GDP growth, as the income-elasticity of demand for household appliances (fridges, ACs, etc) is different for households that go from poor to less poor, than for households that go from middle to upper-class (“pro poor growth”).
- Hunt Allcott presented a follow-up paper using the now well-known O-Power database. The big question that many economists have is whether “nudges” in the form of information provision (how much energy do you consume relative to your neighbors) have a persistent effect. The answer according to Hunt is: yes. Households seem to learn from repeated nudges – consumption drifts upwards a little while after each nudge, but after a series of nudges, consumption remains significantly lower, even when the provision of information stops. Small caveat: these effects are REAL small. So, this is really the last bit of efficiency that can be scraped out of households…
- Not building-related, but important for the general impact of cities is the response of consumers to gasoline price changes. Ken Gillingham presented a very impressive paper using incredible microdata on miles driven by consumers in combination with information on price shocks in petrol prices.
- I presented my paper on price effects of energy labels in residential dwellings. The discussants had some good feedback to further refine the paper, so Matt and I have work to do.